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Shock Me - Special Edition- Exclusive Bonus Materials Included

 

SHOCK ME

 

Book One

of The Shock Me Series

 

By

Ashley C. Harris

 

 

Praise for Shock Me

 

“Everyone can become a hero. That is what I got out of it. Well a lot more but that was a really powerful message. It keeps you on the edge of your seat to see what will happen next. I can’t wait for the next book and look forward to more from this new author!”

-Kindle and Me

 

“Memorable characters and plot momentum will keep the reader fully engaged right up to the pulse-pounding, dramatic conclusion with a stunning ending that I didn’t see coming! Shock Me is a gripping beginning to a new series. I, for one, look forward to the future adventures of these characters.”

-Lusty Penguin

 

“The end of this one totally set things up for the next book and left me eager for what comes next.. Those who enjoy YA Sci-Fi Romance with a twisty plot mystery should try this one.”

-Delighted Reader

 

“Shock Me by Ashley Harris is a story with new, fresh premise and I believe that fans of paranormal young adult novels will be thrilled to read it. I was completely hooked after reading prologue.. Ashley Harris managed to masterfully confuse you and leave you wanting more.”

-Ja čitam, a ti?

 

“I loved this book so much I finished it in one sitting.. Where do I sign up for the second book’s blog tour? I’m so excited.”

-Endless Reading

 

“I think the summary for this one doesn’t begin to really summarized Shock Me. In a way, I found it misleading because there’s so much more to it. I couldn’t stop reading it once I started. The story hooked me up from the beginning to the end. Most especially the ending. I’m glad that it was written in a third person’s point of view. It made it easier for me to understand them. The story itself was written very well and the mysteries surrounding it kept it more interesting and better. It’s like when one secret was revealed there’s another secret.”

-Musings In Fiction Alley

 

“Shock Me is a very nice, light read. It is a fast-paced action book with a little romance, and it is a perfect way to pass some time. It was good enough that if the author wrote a sequel to Shock Me, I would definitely read it… “

-Books With Pizzazz

 

“…I was still shocked (no pun intended) at what all happened at its climax. I won’t spoil it because it needs to be read to be fully appreciated! If you enjoy YA lit, suspense, action, a little sci-fi mixed with fantasy, then go pick up a copy of this book. As far as first in series go, it hooked me right away and I can’t wait to see just where the author takes it from here. Not to mention the awesome semi-cliffhanger!!!! So Please, oh please, hurry book two!”

-Mom With A Reading Problem

 

Also By

Ashley C. Harris

 

Also By

Ashley C. Harris

 

THE SHOCK ME SERIES

Shock Me

Sparks

Collide

New Divide

Ignite

 

THE ONE NIGHT IN SERIES

One Night In Heated Snapshots

One Night In Close Exposure

 

THE LINES NOVELLAS SERIES

Lines Part One

Lines Part Two

Lines Part Three

 

 

 

 

SHOCK ME

 

The Shock Me Series

Book One

 

Ashley C. Harris

 

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

 

Copyright 2013 by Ashley C. Harris. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Author.

 

www.ashleycharris.com

 

New cover design By J.M. Rising Horse Creations

[+ https://www.facebook.com/RisingHorseCreations?fref=ts+]

 

Original cover design by Amber Harris: http://www.amberhdesigns.com/

 

Amazon Edition

 

Special Edition June 2015

 

The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademarked owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction: Nerd, Roswell, Hummer, Cruella De

Vil, Dumpster, Syfy, Syfy Channel, Comic Book, Ford Mustang, Bravo, La-Z-Boy.

 

 

 

Dedicated to my savior Jesus Christ.

To my sister Amber Harris,

and to teenagers everywhere;

“You have a future … Don’t let anyone hold you back.”

 

 

 

SHOCK ME

 

 

Chapter One

Present Day

 

Donna

 

It was a hot summer day in East Applegate, too hot. Donna ran through the side door of her house. Her father was working out in the back, thank goodness, and wasn’t there to see her change. She ran upstairs as fast as she could and went straight into her bathroom; her hands shaking as she locked the door behind her. She turned on her shower and waited the prolonged minute for the water pipes to start. Then, as if she willed it, the water began to pour out.

She stepped in, not bothering to take her clothes off, and let the freezing cold water pierce into her as it always did every time this happened. Her body still shaking, she pulled the shower curtain weakly. Then she sank to the floor of the tub and let the water drown out her world.

Tears rolled down her tired eyes and merged with the rest of the water hitting her so violently. Even with her hot, pre-electric skin merging back to normal, she still couldn’t stop crying.

“Donna!” her dad called from outside her bathroom door.

Donna closed her eyes, willing herself to speak, wishing her dad would come back in an hour or so. “I’m in the shower, Dad!” she called out to him with her eyes still clenched shut.

“Well, I’m about to get going,” he called out through the door.

“Ok, Dad, stay—” she struggled to say the words, to hold herself together. To do anything but just sit in the pouring water and be anything but what she was turning into. “—safe.”

“No, you stay safe,” her dad corrected her.

She could barely hear him now through the door and sound of the water pouring down on her.

“I love you, darling.”

That was the last thing she let herself hear, then she again submerged herself into the water, letting herself shake once more. What was she? How could this be possible? This wasn’t some stupid TV show or comic book, this was real life.

She took a couple of deep breaths and hugged herself. What did Paul mean? How could he understand in moments what she was when she didn’t even know? His words hissed ever so slightly in her mind, getting louder and louder every time she thought about them.

Run, tell no one about this! If they catch you, they’ll kill you! She held her head, trying to make sense of it all.

Tell no one, run, about this, kill you, catch you, if they, kill you. The memory of his words were getting over whelming, all screaming to her at the same time, going in and out of order. They try, run, tell no one, they’ll kill you, run, run, run.

The water, which was freezing before, was now warm and numbing. Being neither cold nor hot, friend nor foe.

Shouldn’t she be used to this by now? Everything in her life was always falling apart before it had a chance to even be put back together. Her mom died giving birth to her. Her older brother David ran away from home when she was five. Her dad lost the farm and now did handy work for all the towns in between his searching for her brother. Her two best friends, Spencer and Rebecca, were avoiding her at all costs, and now, there was a more important issue happening. Finally, someone who could accept her, and yet he brings the message of death. Great, what will life ruin for me next, what else is going to break apart from me?

The answer was as sharp as it was deadly: Everything …

 

  • * *

 

Two and a Half Months Earlier

 

It was a bright and sunny morning. Donna tied her running shoes tightly, double knotting them. They were used and too big, like everything else she owned after losing eighteen pounds. Grabbing her water and thyroid medicine, she was out the door, leaving her dog, Smoky, barking in the yard behind her. The sun had just risen about a half an hour ago, and the air was hotter than normal. She started jogging at a slow pace, waiting till she got to the main trail around the forest to really get herself going. She passed the outside of her neighbor’s large farm, which had a couple of horses and cows. Not anything like when Donna was a child and all the farms were filled with animals as far as the eye could see, but still, it was nice some of the town’s past remained.

Just as she entered the outside of the forest running trail Donna saw him: Ryan Applegate. He was too far off for her to make out his face, but she knew it was him. They were the only two that jogged this early besides Lulu, one of the elderly women from town who got her exercise in every day.

Donna slowed down a bit, running and jogging off and on, getting used to her old routine again. She looked off at some of the plants and things. Anything but stare right at Ryan dead on. They weren’t friends or anything after all, and she’d prove to be more of a dork than she already was if she kept on looking right at him.

He was wearing a new sweat suit, a bright blue one with white stripes down the sides. His hair, which he was letting grow out, shined and framed his face perfectly. His gaze concentrated on everything but her. This was their ritual.

Donna had hoped after spending a fun summer with Peter, whom she had met in New York, that she wouldn’t like Ryan as much, but no, she was out of luck. When she saw him yesterday morning jogging, and then again at school that day, her heart had pounded just as quickly. Ryan looked just as good, if not better, than he had before she’d left.

After they jogged around separate paths, the path looped around and they joined each other, running in the same direction. As the ritual went, they’d fall into the same pace, running together side by side, as if they were friends or something. They never talked, Ryan always listened to his music, yet he’d never go ahead and lose her.

Donna did all she could to look straight at the trees, not at his big muscular arms, or his gorgeous face that should be on every girl’s bedroom poster. After two years of this, she wasn’t super nervous running next to him, but it was hard not to concentrate on Ryan as being another reason besides gymnastics to be in shape.

They looped around the path, their ritual almost coming to its end, then as the path cut off at the park they both stopped together. The water fountain was right next to the park’s bathroom. Ryan waited patiently, still listening to his music as Donna filled her water bottle up for her jog home. Then she turned around, facing him as he went to fill his water bottle also. He smiled at her, this being the only smile he’d give her usually for the rest of the day.

“Hey,” he mouthed as she started past him.

“Hi,” she mouthed back, giving him a smile with equal kindness. For a mere second they were children again, being the best of friends and always so excited to see one another. Then the second left them, and Ryan moved forward to fill his water. Donna took a big drink from her bottle and jogged off. This ended their morning ritual, which took place Mondays through Fridays.

Donna went off, running now more than jogging, wanting to get home in time to shower before her dad did. Whoever got to the shower first got their desired temperature of water. The second would get either freezing cold or steaming hot.

She couldn’t help but smile at the memory of Ryan and then hated herself afterwards. Always after their tiny ritual she felt happier, excited even; he did that to her, he always had. Then at school he and the popular clique never paid attention to her, never at all. Unless it was Lynn, insulting her clothes or something. Shouldn’t she only smile at him if they were actually still friends as they had been when they were kids? Yes, Donna, that’s logical. You should treat him how he treats you at school, like you’re not there, not cool, not anything.

Yet no matter what bad things she told herself about him, no doubt tomorrow she’d smile and say hi, hey, hello. Whatever phrases they went with. Every year since they started running together, he’d leave behind a small card or trinket for her birthday or Christmas. She did the same for him as well. He’d leave it by the bench right next to the fountain and not show up for running so they wouldn’t have to actually talk when she’d find it, and she’d do the same, leaving it at the old fort they’d built in a tree hole, or a birthday card she’d slip in his locker when no one was looking. They were like secret friends, who never actually hung out or talked.

Which really isn’t friends is it? Especially when your friends used to call me fat girl and you just would stand by, not even looking upset about it. She tried to stop herself from thinking about him any further.

This year is different, she told herself. This year I’ve been kissed; I’ve been on dates. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in, and this year I’m going to join the Virginia State Gymnastic Team for my age group. This year I’ll travel and barely set foot at East Applegate High. This year is the beginning of my escape!

 

  • * *

 

Donna brushed a couple strokes through her tangled hair that was still mostly wet from her shower. She threw her ill-fitting, oversized overalls on and also her “fat jacket” as she called it. It was way too big with very thin material, but it was the only jacket from Goodwill that fit her when she bought it at the time. Now she wore it with glee, loving how big it was on her. It still didn’t keep her warm at all, but summer’s heat had stayed around longer this year. It was September and a record breaking 90 degrees, so she didn’t need to keep warm anyway.

She watched her tall, naturally thin father scarf down a couple of donuts and drink his stone black coffee. The donuts were left over from last night, his “dinner.” The way he ate disgusted her, yet all her lecturing wasn’t going to stop him. She grabbed her protein shake from the fridge; it was barely cold.

“Dad, we really, really need a new fridge.”

“Yeah, I know, darling,” he told her as he stood up and grabbed his things to head out on one of his jobs. “Mrs. Robertson said she’d pay me today for fixing the hole in her ceiling last month. So,” he smiled, “you pick one out and have it put on hold, and I’ll pick it up.”

She smiled at her dad’s feeling of satisfaction. They’d been so low on money lately, this time last year they’d gone without power for two weeks until he finally got enough cash to have it turned back on. Luckily, it was much cooler then. Being able to buy a new fridge when they actually needed it, not a couple months after it was broken, was a big deal.

Donna checked to make sure Smoky had enough food then headed out. School started in an hour, and it was about an hour and a half’s walk. She started out the door but then turned and went back for her thyroid medicine. It was a medication everyone in the town had to carry at all times because they were located so close to the Applegate Power Plant. The precaution began after a massive explosion that took place seventeen years back.

People still talked about the incident to this day. Half the power plant was destroyed in the catastrophe. As owner of the plant, Ryan’s father, Mr. Applegate, was blamed, so he donated millions of dollars to the town and soon was loved again as everyone’s big hero. Donna was still in utero at the time so none of it mattered to her. The only passing thought she’d ever had about the whole thing was about what her grandmother always whispered: that several people in the town went crazy after everything had blown apart. She wondered in the back of her head if that’s why her brother, David, had run away as a kid. Maybe he’d gone crazy …She walked into her geometry class twenty-five minutes after the bell had rung. Mr. Harris was in the middle of reviewing homework. Right as she opened the door, he called out behind her, “Hello, Miss. Young,” without even needing to turn to see if it was she who’d come in. The class giggled, and Donna gave a shy smile and went to her seat right next to Spencer.

After a moment Spencer turned around as he always did and whispered, “If you would ride the bus, you know, that big yellowish thing that comes to the end of everyone’s road every day, then you could get to school on time, grab a pop, and come to class only five minutes late like normal people.” He smiled flirtatiously as he did with everybody causing Donna to roll her eyes.

“Yeah, but then I wouldn’t have a chance to burn off an extra three hundred calories every morning, and would inhale one hundred and fifty pointless ones in return due to your bad soda habits,” she whispered back.

“Be very, very, careful,” he exaggerated in a harsh whisper. “Very careful … ” His face squeezed together like a cartoon character. “You’re starting to speak the whiny oxymoron language of CRUELLA over there.” He nodded his head toward Lynn Eris, Ryan’s girlfriend, who was putting on bright pink lipstick while staring at herself in her compact mirror. “You know,” he continued raising his voice, “the evil queen who can’t stop looking at herself, counts calories, and skins small animals! Your typical crazy … ”

Donna blushed and bit her lip to stop herself from giggling too loudly. Lynn was wearing a designer animal print jacket and matching purse; hence Spencer’s typical Cruella De Vil joke. He started making faces, mimicking her behavior, causing not only Donna but Susie to giggle too. Spencer, suddenly excited to get Susie’s attention, nodded his head and winked at her. Her giggling stopped abruptly and she turned back to the teacher without giving him another glance. Susie wasn’t one of the popular people, but she was higher on the totem pole than both Spencer and Donna combined and wasn’t going to risk being seen flirting with him.

“Epic fail,” the guys behind Spencer laughed.

Spencer, now embarrassed, turned his head back around and faced the teacher.

“Aw, too bad,” Lynn whispered loudly enough for their entire row and the row in front of them to hear, in her usual mocking voice. “It would be much more entertaining to see him go out and then get dumped by someone who wasn’t imaginary.”

Everyone laughed, causing Lynn to smile as she played with Ryan’s fingers, which were wrapped around her own.

“That’s enough, class!” Mr. Harris ordered, his lesson interrupted. “Miss Eris, Mr. Klingalsmith, you both can find new ways to interrupt my class in detention after school.”

Lynn rolled her eyes at the teacher undaunted, as Spencer whispered harsh complaints.

And this, Donna thought, will always be my average day. The highlight of her week would be picking out a new fridge and possibly a pair of shoes on sale. She stared at the board, imagining every number the teacher drew was a gymnastic pose.

She had no idea what was really coming …

 

  • * *

 

Ryan

 

Trouble was on its way and Ryan could feel it. After school he, his older brother Randy, and Lynn sat at a table together with the rest of the cheerleaders. He was drumming his fingers anxiously. They’d all just finished football practice and were having a bite to eat before he, Lynn, and Randy headed off.

He looked at his girlfriend for a moment, wishing they could go somewhere alone, away from everyone else. She had looked so hot today, her neckline low and her T-shirt rising more and more every time she moved. She had been in such a racy mood earlier, but now …. like her body, her personality always morphed. She’d gone from flirting to cruel to just plain annoying, ordering the other cheerleaders around; telling them when they messed up, and what they shouldn’t be eating, all while she ate what she pleased. She was a leader in the making. If ever put in charge of an army, Lynn would be greatly feared. But sometimes he wished she’d give it all a break. That they could just be like a regular couple.

He heard the door start to open before the bell on it shook. Spencer Klingalsmith, the most annoying guy in Ryan’s class, and Rebecca Leopold, Donna’s other close friend, walked into the small town diner. Rebecca was laughing at Spencer’s stupid jokes as if he was Jim Carrey on TV or something. Ryan rolled his eyes. He wished Donna would stay away from that kid, pick a different guy to hang out with, or preferably she could just hang out with Rebecca.

He looked through the clear glass window knowing where Spencer and Rebecca were Donna wouldn’t be far behind. After a second he spotted her walking inside the shoe store across the street, her eyes staring at the running shoes on the wall. “I’m gonna get some air,” he said as he got up from the table, taking his soda with him.

Spencer’s mom, one of the waitresses at the diner, handed Spencer some change from her pocket. It dropped from her hands causing her to bend over.

“Uh, yeah, me too.” Randy got up quickly and started moving behind him while staring at Spencer’s mom’s behind. She was probably the reason Randy had chosen to come eat here in the first place. Spencer’s mom was hot, very hot, and young too. She’d had Spencer when she was only a teenager. Randy practically walked into her as she stood up straight, her butt supposedly grazing his hands by accident. Spencer gave both brothers very pissed off looks, as if he was tough or something. Spencer tough? Ha, that’s a joke. Yet instantly Ryan felt on edge, watching his older brother closely, making sure Randy didn’t start something regrettable with this guy. Being the town hot head defined Randy in ways most people couldn’t imagine, and it was Ryan’s job to make sure everyone stayed under control.

They headed outside, both leaning against the restaurant wall as Randy pulled out a cigarette and played with his lighter. It was un-believable because their mom had died from smoking and here Randy was cutting years off his life. The butt of his cigarette caught on fire without him even pretending to flicker the lighter on.

“You need to be more careful and use your lighter,” Ryan told him. “Dad would freak.”

“I am a lighter, little brother,” Randy corrected him. “Chill.”

Ryan rolled his eyes. Lecturing Randy was like talking to a wall.

“So is this why you wanted to come out here?” Randy asked him, looking toward Donna as she lifted up different running shoes from inside the store; she was looking at the prices no doubt.

“I needed to chill before training.”

“Sure,” Randy said in disbelief.

Ryan ignored him, watching Donna, his once childhood companion, try on a pair of running shoes. They were black and white with one thin pink stripe. Girlie enough for Donna, where on the other hand Lynn, looking as herself, would never touch them.

Donna looked at the price on the box several times and then handed the shoes back to the sales girl and left the store. She was wearing old-fashioned baggie overalls on top of her blue gymnastic uniform. The blue lit up her eyes as the sun shinned down on her messy blond hair. Donna was the nice girl, the shy type of girl who is kind and often overlooked, but when you do look, you saw that she was incredibly beautiful.

Their eyes met as she came toward the restaurant door and she took a deep breath bracing herself. As if she needed the extra strength just to walk by and not embrace him like she used to when they were younger. Every time she did that, everyday when he had to see her at school and she took that “brace yourself” pose, it was like a punch to the gut. And every time he wished he could say something.

“If it isn’t little Donny,” Randy barked while breathing out more smoke. Donna gave a half sarcastic, half embarrassed smile and kept walking by. Years ago Randy used to antagonize and bully Ryan and Donna both with all his older friends. To try and escape him, they would run and hide in the woods for hours at a time, building forts and imagining dumb adventures. They had become so close back then, their bond was almost indescribable; up until right before the summer of Donna’s first trip to New York when something terrible had almost happened and it was all Ryan’s fault.

“It’s better this way,” his father’s words echoed inside his mind. “Just keep her away.” But he still always wondered what it would be like if he and Donna were dating. If he could be just like her. Normal.

 

 

Chapter Two

 

Donna

 

Donna had strange dreams that night. Usually whenever she closed her eyes she was stuck seeing nothing but continuous gray, but tonight she dreamt of a cold, black darkness settling over her town, freezing everyone to stillness. She dreamt of her father and his own childhood best friend, Richard Applegate, Ryan and Randy’s father, struggling to keep warm, to not freeze to death like all the others. She searched outside for something to help them, but couldn’t find anything. Then a light came from underneath the ground. Like a hidden sun coming out to play, but before Donna could call her dad and Mr.Applegate, before she could tell them about the light, the ground started to shake. The light got brighter and brighter, and before she knew what was happening, the fire underneath the ground started to explode. The last thing Donna saw before she opened her eyes was a hooded man in the distance, a man who had tried to hurt her years back the first time her father brought her to New York. She saw the man’s haunting silver eyes staring at her as the explosion, an electric explosion, swallowed up everything.

She couldn’t get back to sleep after that. She got up extra early to jog as she had the day before, and felt a strangeness she couldn’t shake. Not just in her head, like she normally would after having a nightmare, but her whole body felt off.

She opened the front door and took a few steps out without looking down. Something big had been placed on the bottom doorstep that she hadn’t anticipated, causing her trip and fall. Her water bottle went flying as she was forced to dive roll so she won’t smash her face against the rocks on the steps. Her gymnastics training, learning to fall without getting hurt, saved her as she rolled onto her legs which were now covered with mud. That’s just great!

She looked at what she had just tripped over and had almost caused a broken neck. A box. A shoe box? She picked it up and looked at the outside label. They were women’s shoes. Her heart started pounding and she opened it fast, knowing what they would be. Am I still dreaming? she thought with shock and surprise. The shoes she had looked at yesterday, the ones she had wanted for over three months now but couldn’t ever afford; they had been placed on her outside doorstep in the middle of the night.

Ryan must have done this, she thought. He was the only one who left gifts for her in secret without acknowledging it. But it wasn’t her birthday, or Christmas. What was so special about today? Why would Ryan do something so sweet, but then go back to not talking? Was she that big of a dork, so low on the totem pole, so pathetic that he had to … No, I’m not thinking negative, this is a new year! She slowly put the shoes on. Of course they fit perfectly. Not that she believed he knew her shoe size, but he had probably asked the lady what size she had wanted. So now he knows I wear a size nine compared to Lynn’s tiny feet! How embarrassing.

Still … thank you, Ryan, she thought as if he were still there listening. She took a deep breath, then looked around for her water bottle. It must have rolled into the bushes or someplace. She didn’t want to track mud back inside so instead she took off, jogging hard, not caring if she got sweaty because when Ryan left gifts he always avoided her for the rest of the day afterward. She knew besides school she’d barley see him. The real question was why?

 

  • * *

 

Later, she got back to the house and found her dog throwing up all over the kitchen. Fan-freakin-tastic! She went to her dog’s puke filled water dish and cleaned it, then filled it with fresh water and set it next to him. He looked so sad.

“It’s ok, boy, it’s ok.” She took him out back and hosed him off while her dad cursed at his old truck for not starting. Great, I’m going to be even more late than usual. As Donna was just about done cleaning her dog, the water stopped coming out of the hose. No! Not today! Please not today! She tried turning it on and off repeatedly but it was clear their water had stopped again.

Feeling tired she emptied two water bottles on the kitchen floor to clean it, then went upstairs to inspect herself in the bathroom. No shower today! Spectacular! She actually wasn’t sweating at all. That was a miracle in itself, but her face and knees were dirty. So she poured her last bit of water on a face cloth and used it to wipe off her face, and then the mud from her knees; then she got changed.

After all that she had only drops of water left in her bottle. She downed it, not filling her thirst at all. She went downstairs and grabbed a protein shake and headed outside. Her dad was under his old truck, singing to himself.

“How is it?” she asked him.

“Oh,” he started. “Just a couple of things loose. Nothing I can’t fix.”

She listened as her father tightened things. Suddenly she felt very thirsty and tired, almost like she was going to faint. She leaned one hand on the car, popping her shake open with the other. Her eyes were shutting; she felt dizzy.

Her shake dropped to the ground as she lost her balance. She clutched both hands to the car catching herself.

“What was that?” her dad asked from underneath the car.

She went to talk, trying to wake herself up. Then she felt heat in her hands while she was touching the car. It came quickly, coming up her arms and down into her chest. A feeling of quick heat, like she had been pleasantly warmed up on the inside.

She took a deep breath, all of sudden she didn’t feel dizzy or thirsty. Only bits of tiredness remaining. “Nothing, Dad,” she answered.

“Good, because I’m done,” he called out, coming out from underneath the car. “There is no beast your father can’t tame.”

Usually she’d roll her eyes and smile when he said that, but she felt … strange.

“Go get yourself another breakfast, darling. I’ll drive you. I’m already behind, might as well be more.”

“No, I’m not … I’m not hungry any more.” It was true, her hunger had disappeared. In fact, she felt like she’d eaten so much that if she ate more she wouldn’t be able to move, yet she felt no food in her stomach? Today has been so bizarre! she thought to herself. Maybe I’m still dreaming?

Her dad put his keys in the car. It sounded like it was going to start, but then didn’t. He did it again, cursed, and tried once more. “What the … ? I just jumped the battery yesterday!” he complained, followed by curses.

“Dad, I’m going to walk, ok?” she told him and started off. That old truck was always needing to be fixed. It was as old as she was.

 

  • * *

 

Donna walked into Mr. Harris’s class an hour late. He actually turned and looked this time. “An hour, Miss Young? I’m going to have to give you a detention this time,” he told her in a low voice.

Donna nodded and went quickly to her seat. She wasn’t mad. Mr. Harris was one of her favorite teachers and had always cut her slack.

“Shouldn’t she like, get a detention every time she’s late?” Lynn called out to the teacher, putting her nail file down.

Donna hid her face humbly, embarrassed, tired again, and out of it completely.

“Isn’t that like, the fair initiative to be done?” Lynn went on, enjoying the sound of her own voice as she spoke loud enough so the whole class could hear.

“Miss Eris,” the teacher corrected her, “why don’t you worry about showing up to your own detentions?”

“Like that will ever happen!” Spencer chimed in.

“You’ll have one today Miss Eris,” the teacher went on, ignoring Spencer, “and one tomorrow for not showing up yesterday. You, Mr. Klingalsmith, will have one also.”

“Hey! What did I do this time?” Spencer started but the teacher ignored him, turning toward the board. Lynn whispered insults loudly at Mr. Harris and then went back to filing her nails. Once the teacher was enough into his lesson, Donna laid her head down on her desk, her body feeling drowsy and tired again.

 

  • * *

 

Rebecca

 

At lunch Rebecca sat with Donna and Spencer at their “we don’t exist” table. Rebecca Leopold was short and very petite, all of ninety pounds, with reddish-brown curly hair and bright green eyes. She had liked Spencer since the sixth grade when he mysteriously moved to their town, and she and Donna had become his only friends. But Spencer, as usual, was telling his jokes while staring at every girl but her. Why can’t he ever think of me as sexy? she always wondered.

Donna was laying her head down on the table, which was unusual for her to want to sleep at lunch. Not that Rebecca had any classes with her; she’d been put in all advance classes since before she knew them both. She was already earning college credits through their school’s dual enrollment courses online and on the fast track to one day attend M.I.T: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“What’s up with you Donna, not enough sleep after all that partying?” Spencer asked sarcastically.

“I don’t know, I don’t feel good I guess.”

“I hate being sick, I’m sorry,” Rebecca sympathized. “You should drink a lot of water.”

“Yeah, soup and stuff,” Spencer added through eating bites of his sandwich.

“I am kind of thirsty I guess.” Donna slowly started to rise then stumbled, catching the table to balance herself. She looked dizzy.

“Wow,” Spencer said. “Do you need me to walk you over?”

“No, I’m good.” Donna started off toward the water fountain.

Rebecca wished she had been sick, maybe then Spencer would have offered to walk her somewhere. They had all been best friends since middle school, but ever since Donna had come back from New York this year Rebecca had noticed Spencer was looking at her like he did the other school girls. Would he ever look at Rebecca, who wasn’t athletic like Donna, and didn’t have big breasts like Lynn? Her only talent was stopping computer viruses in her spare time. Would anybody ever look at her as more than a friend?

Paul Cohen walked over and sat next to her. She only knew him slightly. He was in all the same advanced classes she was, and they always won awards together. He’d constantly been the number one student at any subject, and she’d been number two. Not that it bothered her; he was two years older so she knew she was still in good standing.

“Hi, um, Rebecca,” he said slowly. He was always shy like that, fumbling on his words. Some days he wore his contacts, mostly though he wore his thick black glasses, which were constantly falling off of him.

“Hey Paul, what’s up?”

“Well, um, I know I didn’t meet with you guys for the practice presentation at the assembly. Do you think you could fill me in?”

“Yeah, sure.” She smiled, “We a—”

“No, um, not here. I, ah, have something to do,” he interrupted her. He glanced around as if someone was watching him.

“I think you need to ease up on the coffee there,” Spencer commented at his strange behavior.

“No I’m, I mean,” he straightened his glasses as they fell down his nose. “I am, just busy that’s all. Have a lot on my plate.”

“Ok, well, let’s meet after school,” she told him.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna walked down the hall toward the water fountain. She took a deep breath, steadying herself. Ryan was there filling his water bottle up. With her pulse speeding up a bit, she walked over, waiting behind him.

He turned around, facing her, looking at her for only a second, then looking past her. His tall, muscular body was only a foot away from her. She could smell his cologne and could not pull her eyes away from his chest. He looked like a movie star, hotter even. There was not one girl at the school who would resist him if he asked. They were all in love with him.

He looked at her feet; at the shoes he had bought her. Then she caught the tiniest smile on his face. She blushed, smiling back for a second also. Then he looked on, his attention caught by his older brother Randy who was coming their way, leaving all the football players behind him.

“I got the call,” Randy told Ryan, ignoring Donna’s presence completely. He walked behind his brother, getting a drink from the fountain himself, and cutting Donna in line; another barrier stopping her from drinking.

Then Randy turned and leaned against the fountain, his new four hundred dollar phone in one hand, and his lighter that he was tossing in the other. His eyes locked wickedly on Donna who still stood waiting to get a drink. It made her feel like a child again, with Randy and his friends, all older, pushing her and all the younger kids around.

He stared intensely at her, annoyed. “Shoo,” he ordered coldly.

She glanced at Ryan, with his “Ryan expression,” that “I don’t know you, you’re not cool” look, then turned and walked off. There was another fountain by the office, but she didn’t feel like walking that far. She went back to her lunch table as Paul, the nerdy senior, left quickly, walking as if there were a stampede behind him. She remembered he used to work at the grocery store when she was in middle school, and she knew he was really smart like Rebecca. He was a nice guy. Always nervous, especially today …

 

  • * *

 

Detention was only a half hour, but it seemed to take forever. Students were not allowed to sleep, otherwise Donna would have. Students couldn’t write or draw either. All they could do was sit and stare at the board. Jacob, a kid from her class, was sitting next to her, texting someone on his cell phone, hidden on his lap from the teacher.

“Ok, its 3:30, you all can go,” Mr. Harris told them.

The dean walked in, not looking at the students as he walked straight toward Mr. Harris.

“What can I do for you?”

“I understand Lynn Eris had a detention today,” the dean started.

Donna, Spencer, and the rest of the students got up to leave.

“Yes, she’s making up for the one she missed yesterday.”

“Yes, well, just as I told you a few months ago—”

“You mean the last time I tried to write her a referral because she had ten detentions, all unserved,” Mr. Harris interrupted.

“Yes, just as I told you then,” the dean continued annoyed. “She is in a special program the Mayor organized and can’t be here to serve after school detentions. If you—”

Donna and Spencer left the room, unable to hear anymore.

“I had no idea the Mayor had special programs being held at the local diner,” Spencer said sarcastically.

Rebecca joined them as they walked outside and Donna filled her in.

“Someone tell me what I need to do to get in the Mayor’s special program,” Spencer went on.

“Date an Applegate boy whose father funds the Mayor, the police station, and the fire department … ” Rebecca went on.

“Ok I get it, they’re father funds everything. Big flipping deal!”

Donna never joined in when Spencer spoke against Ryan and Randy’s dad. Mr.Applegate was her father’s closest friend, and had been named as Donna’s godfather years ago in case something ever happened to her dad. He had been such a wreck after her mother died and her brother ran away. Those years had been awful from what Donna could remember, until Mr. Applegate’s youngest son became her best friend.

Rebecca’s big college calculator slipped out of her sweatshirt pocket onto the ground. The sound brought Donna back to reality as she knelt down to pick it up for her.

“Can’t you store test answers in those things?” Spencer asked.

“You could if you wanted to.”

Donna felt heat in her left hand again as she held the calculator. She felt it, much less than earlier, travel up her arm and into her chest, then down all the way to her feet. Spencer, meanwhile, had put his arm around Rebecca, pouring on all his charm.

“Now, Rebecca, my best friend in the whole wide world, you have to hook me up with that thing next class.”

Rebecca was glowing now. Donna knew how much she liked him, he seemed to be the only one that didn’t. He and his mom were living in another world sometimes. The town still gossiped about the ten big bolted locks Spencer’s mom paid to have added to their small home’s door. Nothing too dangerous ever happened here. Why would they need that? Donna handed Rebecca back her calculator.

“Ouch!” Rebecca said when she took it. “You shocked me.”

Donna just looked at her, puzzled. She’d been shocked before, like when you touch the handle of an escalator, the static on your hands stays behind zapping the first person you come in contact with; but Donna had only touched a calculator. Didn’t both people usually feel it? All Donna had felt was heat in her hand. Strange …

 

  • * *

 

They walked down the long road by the forest. Donna’s house was furthest away. Spencer had been talking about how much he hated Randy and all the senior jocks hitting on his mom, but then changed the subject back to Rebecca’s calculator.

“I kind of,” she started shyly, blushing a bit, “figured out how to sync the calculator with my cell phone. Like if I want to text someone in class, as long as the signal has gone back and fourth at least once I can text a person from my calculator while my phone stays in my bag.”

“Say what! We can text each other during a test via our calculators?” Spencer started, “When did you learn this?”

She blushed, “I saw Paul do something similar in the seventh grade when they let us take the SAT’s early. He knows all the tricks and stuff. ”

“So you’ve been holding out on me for three years!”

“It’s not like I’ve actually done it … used my calculator to cheat.”

“Come on, it’s time we start immediately. Let me see this thing.”

She handed it to him. He took the cover off of it and hit the buttons a couple of times.

“How do you start it?” he asked.

“Um, shift and then the button that says on,” Rebecca answered, giggling on cloud

nine. Donna was only half listening to their conversation, her body felt so hot and tingly.

“What? It can’t be,” Rebecca was saying.

“What?” Donna asked, pulling herself from her thoughts.

“Its dead; I just put new batteries in it this morning.”

Just then a truck came screeching down the road filled with jocks, coming straight toward them, fast. The sound of the music scared Donna, making her drop all her books and papers.

She jumped back to one side of the road as Spencer pulled Rebecca to the other. The truck drove straight through, not even bothering to stop, going about ninety miles an hour. It was a bright red Hummer truck with fire designs on it. Only Randy had a car like that in East Applegate.

“That guy is such a … ” Spencer started to cuss when another sports car came zooming through next. It was Lynn’s bright pink convertible. She had the hood down and another cheerleader in the seat next to her. She was coming just as fast. She zoomed past them; Donna felt more heat as she went by.

“Followed by the next biggest … ” Spencer kept on complaining and insulting them, but Donna could no longer hear him. She walked slowly toward her books. Her legs felt like they’d fallen asleep all the way up. She had to concentrate on each step she took, as if it weren’t second nature to simply walk.

Another car started down the street, still far enough away that she could pick up her books. Donna shook, trying to get a hold of herself. She took a deep breath, trying to wake herself up.

The car coming down the road was in the lane next to her, but then it swerved, coming at her fast. The driver looked up, all of a sudden just opening his eyes as if he’d somehow been as tired as Donna and fallen asleep at the wheel. She heard his brakes slam as the car was only an inch away.

“Donna!” Rebecca screamed.

She didn’t move. Even if she had tried she wouldn’t have had time to. This was all happening in what felt like less than a second. She felt heat shoot through her chest to her face, down to her toes, and through to her fingers. Every limb in her body felt like it was falling asleep quickly, as if little dots inside her were jumping around. Then there was a brush of new heat, so hot, coming from the car as it hit against her flesh. The car was pouring in, surrounding her outside skin; and the top of her head itched, burning inside. Next the car passed through her, all the way through.

 

  • * *

 

Spencer

 

Spencer watched horrified as the driver coming down the road swerved into the wrong side of the lane, right where Donna was standing. He started to brake but it was too late.

Then the car wasn’t hitting her. It was going through her. Donna’s body had become transparent, see-through. She glowed like lightning. Donna … The car passed right through her like she was some kind of ghost. A ghost made of electricity …

And then everything they had ever known changed forever.

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

Rebecca

 

Like some kind of bizarre dream, Rebecca watched the car screech to a stop. Donna’s body stopped glowing as she turned back into herself, still standing as she was right before the car went through her. Paralyzed in her position, her facial expression hadn’t changed. Her body was completely naked except for her shoes.

The driver of the car wasn’t moving … Then Donna’s body collapsed. She fell to the ground. Rebecca stood still, the world had stopped. This can’t be real! This can’t be real! Spencer moved after a moment, slowly toward Donna. Rebecca ran to the driver, feeling safer somehow away from the impossible.

She opened the car door, and saw a middle aged man lying in his seat, seat belted and unconscious. She went to touch his body, but felt a zap, a very strong zap. She’d been shocked. She grabbed her key chain, which hung on one of her belt loops, took the cap off her thyroid medicine injection, and stabbed him with it. Then she pulled her hand away, leaving the needle inside him. She saw his stomach was rising and moving slightly, so he wasn’t dead, yet …

Spencer lifted Donna up. She was in his arms, shaking. Her skin still glowed slightly.

“She’s burning up, getting hotter and hotter!” he yelled. He looked so afraid, so panicked, so out of it.

This can’t be real! Rebecca stood still, not knowing what to do. This cant be real! She looked for her cell phone, her backpack. Where was it? “We need to call nine-one-one!” she yelled to Spencer.

He looked at her, panicking more. “She’s getting hotter!”

“Where’s my stuff … I, I don’t—” she began.

“I think she going to die!” he said next in a low voice.

Rebecca went to her friend; she touched her forehead. She was hot, more than fever hot. She was boiling water hot. “We need to cool her down, now!” She panicked.

They both looked at each other. Rebecca, who could barely form words, now mouthed “the lake” to Spencer. They took off. The lake was at least a mile into the woods. Donna’s shaking was getting less and less, and her body was almost white looking. Glowing like some bluish white bright light was housed inside her.

“She’s getting too hot!” Spencer yelled.

They were almost there. The lake’s water was always cold.

“It’s just ahead!” Rebecca tripped violently over a large branch that was cut down. Spencer was still running, very fast now. Rebecca struggled to get to her feet and keep up with him.

Then they were there. Spencer dropped Donna in the water like she was a steaming hot dish on his hands. Rebecca knelt down and pushed her farther in. Her body was like touching hot china without oven mitts. Rebecca pulled her hands back.

Tiny bits of steam came out of the water around Donna’s body, and her glowing was fading. The skin around her fingers returned from transparent white back to normal hands. Then her hair and fingernails turned back to normal. Her facial color returned, the glowing faded. Donna’s shaking intensified though as her whole body returned to looking like a human being again; a sick human being who needed help.

She now lay in the shallow part of the lake, naked and trembling. Rebecca looked at Donna and then stared at Spencer in shock. His arms were red and looked like they had burn marks on them; burn marks from carrying Donna. She heard the sound of police sirens back toward the road. They sounded very far away, yet she knew right where they were coming from.

“The man.”

Spencer looked at her.

“His body had been shocked!” Tears rolled down her eyes. “We have to go tell them,” she told him as she turned around and started walking.

“Tell them what?”

She turned back. “Tell them what happened, tell them that—”

“Tell them that as a driver slammed into our best friend she turned into lightning and he passed through her, electrocuting himself!”

“Yes, we’ll tell them everything,” she insisted.

“They will think we’re crazy and that we’ve hurt the driver somehow. They’ll arrest us!”

What is he saying? Has the world gone crazy?

“That will not happen, that’s not even logical.” More tears were running down her eyes.

“You don’t know the cops here like I do; we can’t let them know we’re involved!” he barked.

“What are you saying?” she asked weakly, her entire world falling apart.

Meanwhile Donna was crawling out of the water naked and on her knees. She was still shivering, her eyes looking drowsy. She mouthed something but Rebecca couldn’t understand it.

“My arms,” Spencer said, tears now coming from his eyes too. His arms were burnt, bad.

“The police will get you to a hospital in—” she started, panicked.

“No!” he interrupted. “The police can never know I was involved. Never! If they do, my mom and I could die. I—” He winced in pain. “I can have nothing to do with this!” Then he turned around and ran.

Rebecca felt like she was going to throw up. She didn’t know what to do.

“Rebecca.” Donna reached out, trembling. She was standing up now.

“No, don’t touch me, you’ll burn me!” Rebecca cried.

“Hey, is someone there?” a voice from far away called out. “This is the police!”

Rebecca turned, panicked; she had to make a decision, now. “Spencer and I weren’t here!” she yelled at Donna frantically. Then she took off running behind Spencer, running as fast as she could, never wanting to stop …

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna didn’t feel strong enough to run, she didn’t understand what was happening. Her body still felt hot and tingly, like it was asleep. Nothing made sense, and all she knew was that whoever was coming toward her had made Spencer and Rebecca run away, leaving her behind. She went back into the river; she’d swam in it her whole life and knew it well. From far behind she heard a man calling out, “Police!” but she never bothered to look back.

She dove under the water, opening her eyes and feeling overwhelmed as the water cured her, penetrating her skin, taking that tingly feeling away, and soothing her flesh. She swam all the way to the other side.

When she got out of the river, she ran through the old woods to the big climbing tree she’d climbed as a child. It had a ladder made of ropes on it. She hadn’t climbed it since she was a kid, but needed to escape as the officers got closer. The big tree’s branch lead into another large tree’s big branch, leading to another rope ladder she’d placed there as a kid.

Once she had climbed it, now very high into the air, she arrived at the fort she and Ryan had built when they were twelve. It was simply a thick wooden floorboard nailed into a bunch of branches that came together from various trees. The branches met and were securely able to hold up to four or five kids. She and Ryan had hidden in it many times. It blended in so perfectly that it was almost impossible to see unless you stood at a certain angle by the base of the river. Now years later she was sitting in it, naked, hiding from a police officer. Not even knowing what had happened, what she had done. She closed her eyes and started to cry, trying to hold back her sobs. She could see the man near the lake. He said something into his walkie talkie. She was too far away to hear it.

After he left she closed her eyes, too scared now to move, and laid there, helpless …

 

  • * *

 

Spencer

 

Spencer ran as fast as he could. Yet it seemed to be an eternity before he reached his home. His mother was just opening the door with her keys when he ran up to her, tears rolling down his eyes as he held up his burned hands and drooped to his knees.

“Spencer!” She clutched him in her arms and held him. “Oh my God! Your arms!” She grabbed her phone, ready to call nine-one-one.

“No, Mom, don’t,” he whispered through his tears. His skin felt like it was still burning, like he was still holding Donna’s body.

“Spencer! What’s happened to you?”

“A car accident, the police are involved, Mom! I ran, they didn’t see me.” He fought to speak more words through his pain.

“Oh, my boy,” she wept. She clutched him in her arms, and then helped him stand up and took him inside. His mom spread butter down his arms and gave him the tiny whisky bottle that she had in the house. She took a wet rag and put it on his forehead as he laid down.

He lay there silently, letting the whiskey kick in, not wanting to talk to his mom. He didn’t know what he was supposed to tell her. If he told her the truth, she’d only think he was lying, that Sergio had found them. Which he hadn’t.

He hated the fact that he had made his mom worry. He could see all those familiar expressions of stress and panic rush back on her face as they had years ago when he was eleven. She shook her head and drank a big glass of water. “They look like they’re only second degree burns, if they’d been anything worse I would have had to take you to the hospital,” she said, looking at him numbly, as if someone had died. She paced back and forth in front of him, suddenly looking like she had been up all night. “What kind of car accident?”

“A … ” he started. “A driver blacked out or something and almost hit us. When we went to check on him, he was knocked out. I don’t know!”

She closed her eyes, shaking her head. He hated the fact that he had made her like this.

“So when we heard the police coming, I ran.”

“And who was with you, Spencer?” she asked him sternly.

“Rebecca and Donna.” He thought about what Donna had turned into again.

“If they say you were there and you ran, the police will definitely be coming.” She started shaking her head again, pacing the room faster.

“They won’t!” he told her.

They won’t …

 

  • * *

 

Rebecca

 

Rebecca’s parents were away again. Her mom was an archeologist, and her father was a marine biologist. They were constantly leaving to find things, and then they’d write books together about it.

Rebecca was so scared; she didn’t know what to do. Instinctively, she went and got another thyroid medicine inject and hooked it to her key chain. She was allergic to the pill form so instead she had to have it ready in case the power plant exploded all over again.

Her backpack and her cell phone were left back at the car accident she recalled. More and more tears violently streamed from her eyes as she clutched her face. The police are going to find my stuff, and then come find me! Oh God, why did I run, why did I listen to Spencer? Because he was her friend, and because she liked him … She grabbed the phone, and started to dial nine-one-one. If she just told them she was scared then … There was a knock on the door. Rebecca stood still, hanging up the phone. They’re here already! Did the man … did he die? Am I going to be arrested?

She walked to her door, trembling. Tears in her eyes. She opened it. “I—” She paused.

It wasn’t the police, it was Paul. He stood there innocently, pushing his falling glasses back onto his nose. “Um, hi,” he started nervously. Clearly he felt uncomfortable by the tears in her eyes and her body still trembled as if the police were taking her away. She stood there, not able to say a word, not able to move.

“Are you ok?” he asked her.

Then she broke down. She stepped out and hugged him, crying frantically now. He was the first person to ask if she was ok. Spencer hadn’t even … Spencer was burned; I shouldn’t even think that way. Yet a part of her felt mad at him … and here was Paul.

 

* * *

 

Paul

 

One minute ago, Paul Cohen was nervously waiting at Rebecca’s door. Going to her home had made him so excited and terrified, it had actually pulled his mind away from reality. Not enough that he didn’t bring his computer tablet with him, but still …

The next minute she was hugging him. Embracing him as she sobbed uncontrollably. Nervously he put his arms around her. I must be dreaming, he thought to himself; he had had a crush on Rebecca since he was in middle school.

“Rebecca, what’s wrong?”

She pulled away from him slowly. Tears were rolling continuously down her face. Even now, she looked so beautiful and delicate. His glasses started to slide down his nose again. He pushed them up instinctively. She looked up at him, her bright green eyes were so clear. With her red curly hair, she looked like a fairy from a painting. He nervously looked to the floor. He had never even hugged Rebecca before. Now he was close enough to smell her perfume; she smelled like roses.

“I, um, I need you to help me call the police,” she said in a low, scared voice.

“The police?” he questioned. He hadn’t expected those words to come out of Rebecca’s mouth.

“Yeah.” She started walking toward the phone as he followed. “Spencer, Donna, and I were coming home from school and a car—” She stopped, unable to finish. More tears ran down her eyes as she looked away from him.

He quickly pulled out a handkerchief and wiped away her tears. Any guy watching would have made fun of him for it, but his grandfather always told him to carry one just in case. She looked up at him; their eyes locked for a second.

“You’re not going to believe me when I tell you this, it’s not even logical.”

She seemed calmer now.

Knowing what he knew lately, logical” had taken on a whole new universe of possibilities. “Logic is like science, always expanding,” he told her, then felt completely dumb after the words left his mouth.

She nodded slowly as if telling herself what he had just said. “A car swerved onto the wrong side of the road.” Her voice was low as if she was whispering. “Where Donna was standing, but the car didn’t hit her.”

He took a deep breath. It was happening again. She was finding out. “What did she do?” he asked her, his heartbeat quickening; he had always known Rebecca would be smart enough to figure it out … and now she was.

 

  • * *

 

Rebecca

 

Rebecca looked at Paul mystified and afraid. What did he just say? “What did she do?” How did he guess that she did something, instead of the car just hitting her? How could he know? She looked into his light brown eyes. They looked sincere; nervous, but sincere.

She took a deep breath, feeling overwhelmed again. She’d tell him, then go to the police. “Her body turned into a ghost.” She could barely get the words out. “A ghost made of electricity. The car went right through her, and she was still standing there afterwards, and the driver was hurt.” More tears started coming down her eyes again. She couldn’t control them.

“Then what happened?” he asked her gently.

He doesn’t think I’m crazy. He believes me …

“I gave the driver my injectate. You know, that’s what we are suppose to do when someone is exposed to electric energy right? Then Spencer was yelling that Donna was dying, so he carried her through the woods to the lake.” Her head throbbed, and her memory felt blurred, as if every single thing that had happened had happened all at once, yet it took the length of the day instead of the mere twenty minutes when it all went down. “Then the police were coming, and Spencer said they’d arrest us. So he ran, and then I ran too.”

“Did they see you, the police?” He looked like his mind was racing also.

“No, but my backpack … all my stuff is there, and Donna was there too,” she said with dread. “I have to call them now before it gets any worse.” She started toward her phone, ready to get it over with.

“No.” Paul stopped her.

She looked at him oddly. Has every guy in this town lost his mind? Why did he also not want her to call the police? He looked so certain, so …

“You have to trust me, Rebecca, please,” he told her. “If there is any chance that the police aren’t on to you, then you need to stay quiet. If not … ” He paused, his hand clutching hers. “ … you could be killed, or taken.”

Rebecca looked into his eyes and trembled. Something about the energy in his voice made her believe him.

“Who would? Why?”

How could there be more to this frightening day?

“There are more people like,” he pushed his glasses up, “Donna, but what they can do is much worse, dangerous.” He touched her cheek gently, sending a shiver down her spine, and then pulled away after a moment. “They’ve killed people who have tried to go public before. If they know you know, you won’t be able to escape.”

His words were like touching ice that was so cold it burned you. She felt so weak all of a sudden. Yet she trusted him? Why? The boy she had only casually known before this day, someone who would show her computer tricks she hadn’t thought of first, she now trusted with everything. She believed words that any other day would sound so ridiculous.

Rebecca could just feel in her gut that he was telling the truth. Which meant that today was only the bizarre, scary beginning of something very dangerous … and real.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

When Donna opened her eyes it was night. She sat up and found herself in the old box tree fort she and Ryan had secretly built when they were children. She pinched herself, hard. Feeling the pain, she pulled her hand away.

She wasn’t still in her nightmare. This was real. Which meant it hadn’t been a nightmare at all. She left the tiny hole of the fort. Then in the pure darkness of the starless night, she walked across a supporting branch until she got to another tree. Then she felt for the rope ladder, which she and Ryan had knotted together. Afraid, she started her way down it.

Only then did she remember she was absolutely naked except for her shoes as her body touched the roughness of the tree. She felt ants on her arms. At least the shoes Ryan had given her were still on her feet, thank goodness.

She moved down the next tree’s ladder. This one looped around the tree and was very wobbly. As she got closer to the bottom, she felt her leg go through one of the ropes. Then she was falling. The next second she was on the dirt, she’d landed on her feet, as if she’d fallen off the uneven bars. Her gymnastic instincts had saved her. Donna ran through the woods. They seemed so scary and foreign. She’d run through them day and night a million times before this, but tonight it seemed like something was going to jump out and kill her at any time.

When she got to the edge of the woods, she stopped. Her house was still a fourth of a mile away. Thank goodness they lived on a farm and that Mr. Applegate hadn’t sold the three fourths of it he’d bought to help her dad out. As a result, she had no neighbors. Only a road in the distance in front of their home, and that road lay silent. The night was pitch black with not one star in the sky. She took off running again, staring at her house the entire time. It kept looking so far away until she finally arrived.

Smoky was barking wildly as she came to the back door. She used the hidden key trapped under the outside light to get inside. Her house was dark. Nobody was home. Her dad was probably out still doing more jobs that he’d missed doing this morning. The morning that now seemed a week or two behind her.

Shaking again now, she ignored Smoky and went right upstairs to the bathroom and went to turn the lights on. As her hand grazed the switch, she felt heat rush through it just like it had before.

Donna paused with her hand on the switch as if hypnotized. Her hand felt tingly, like it was asleep with millions of tiny particles jumping around in it. Then she looked at herself in the dark reflection of the mirror and saw the most startling thing she’d ever seen. Electricity was coming through the switch into her hand. Then her hand began slightly glowing.

She pulled her hand away, but it still glowed, transparently like the rest of her body. She looked at herself in shock. She wasn’t glowing orange-ish gold like a light bulb; she was glowing bluish white like lightning.

Her body felt there, but not there. More alive than ever, yet it felt asleep also. She touched the faucet, but her hand went right through it. She panicked. Was she dead? Had she been dead this whole time? She looked at her shower curtain. As she touched it she heard little pops. Electricity was spilling onto it. She pushed it away, then looking down at the bathtub, she saw a tiny little puddle of water left over.

Her dad must have fixed the water pipes this morning. She touched it instinctively, like it was pulling her to it like a magnet. Then as if by a miracle her hand glowed less, becoming more whole. She turned on the shower, now that she was able to touch it, and her hand became even more solid. She still heard tiny pops like something was being electrocuted as the ice cold water poured on her. She felt the heat in her body, her aliveness yet sleepiness, all go away. It was as if the water was going into her entire flesh. Being absorbed by her heart, organs, and skin.

She opened her mouth, feeling its dryness and hotness, letting water pour in. Feeling like her gums, teeth, tonsils, nose, even her hair was absorbing it all. As if all of a sudden the water was rebuilding her body and soul. After a few minutes, she felt it slide down her throat and she was drinking it.

When she finally got out of the shower, she went to her room, leaving her soaking running shoes behind. Too afraid to look in the mirror and see herself transparent again, she threw on one of her old fat T-shirts and some baggie shorts. She didn’t put on a bra though. She didn’t want anything too close to her body for some reason.

Then she turned on all the lights with her hands still partially wet. She felt no heat or anything out of the ordinary. She had barely been home a minute when she heard her dad pull up. She sat down on the couch confused, still not sure what had happened, starting this afternoon until now. She wondered what she would tell him, when she didn’t even know what to tell herself. Was she going crazy? Was she hallucinating? Had someone slipped her a drug like they had many years ago in New York? Was this all a dream? It felt like it. If so, she’d wish she’d wake up.

She loved her dad, but they never really talked. She didn’t tell him a lot of things, never wanting to add on to his load: her mom, her brother, his old life gone, money problems … So how could she tell him this? Tell him she thought she was dead when she was upstairs moments ago. That she had turned into some kind of electric ghost …

Her dad still hadn’t come in, and she heard him talking to someone. She walked toward the door. Her dog was now going crazy, knowing someone was outside. She glanced through the kitchen window and almost fainted at the sight of seeing Mr. Kooser, the sheriff, talking to her father.

“Donna!” her dad called to her. “Come out here!”

Her heart now pumping, she quickly grabbed one of her dad’s big coats to hide the fact that she wasn’t wearing a bra and went out. The night was still pitch black. What time it was, she had no idea. The sheriff, with his long beard and cowboy boots, glanced at her. She walked over to her dad, who put his arm around her as if she was a small child again.

“The sheriff says your books were found all over the road, right where a driver was found passed out in his car,” her dad stated.

She shivered a little, trying to think. She was still unsure of what had happened.

“He was on sleeping medication, and all he can remember is falling asleep, then waking up in an ambulance,” the sheriff started. He was staring straight at her, not like she’d committed a crime, but like she knew something. “He was found with a needle thyroid inject stabbed into his chest. Someone tried to help him it seems,” the sheriff finished.

“Thyroid inject, why would someone go and use that?” her dad asked.

She looked back and forth from the sheriff to her father, Rebecca’s face coming right to her memories. Rebecca carried an inject in case the power plant were to explode again, like it had years ago, before she’d been born.

“The hospital said the man had experienced bolts of electricity through his body. He’s a smoker, so we think maybe the lighter in his vehicle was defective and sent a shockwave through the entire car,” the sheriff went on. He had gone to school with her father, but they barely spoke, only waved to each other briefly while in town.

“Shoot, I’ve never heard of such a thing,” her father commented.

“Something very similar, to a worse extent, happened three years ago. Now,” the sheriff looked right at her again, “if you were involved, or tried to help this man, you need to let me know. Running away from an accident, even if you were just trying to help, is a serious offense that can land you in court and you’d be better off—”

“Wait,” a voice from behind the three of them called out. It was Spencer. He wore a long sleeve shirt that looked like it held stuffing under it.

“Sheriff, Donna wasn’t involved with whatever you’re talking about,” Spencer told them. He had been standing behind them, listening this whole time.

“Mr. Klingalsmer,” the sheriff barked at him, pronouncing his last name wrong. “I was going to stop by your house next. Your books were found as well.”

“Yeah, well,” Spencer looked a bit more nervous now. “We were on our way home from class when Randy Applegate and all the jocks came speeding down the road, almost hitting us. We jumped out of the way, and all our stuff went flying.”

Donna took a deep breath, remembering that that had happened.

“Then as we started to pick up our stuff, Lynn Eris’s car came speeding down the road next and did the same thing. I, um, was so mad, because of the fact that they all had raced straight through the road, ready to run us over for all they cared, that I ran off.”

Donna knew most of that was true except for the end. He hadn’t run off until … Until I was in the lake. He and Rebecca left me! she remembered. The headache and blurriness of it all made her feel dizzy again.

“Donna went after me. She stopped me from confronting them and doing something stupid.”

The sheriff looked at Spencer with a stern look. “And what dumb thing would you have done, boy?” he barked. “Those boys are twice your size!”

“I don’t know; they’ve been hitting on my mom a lot. I probably wanted to try and punch one of them in the face,” Spencer told him. His face was now to the floor like he was ashamed.

The sheriff rolled his eyes. “Try that and you’d be in the hospital! You best thank your girlfriend that she stopped you, boy!” Donna kept her eyes to the ground, knowing everything Spencer was now saying was a lie, not even caring that the sheriff had just assumed they were a couple.

“Come on, Jim, let me make you some coffee,” her dad offered. He had a relieved look on his face, clearly happy his daughter hadn’t had anything to do with the man in the car.

Though she had; she saw it all now, as if it happened in the blink of an eye. His car coming toward her, her body getting hot, feeling like she had in the bathroom when she turned into that thing. The car going through her body, filling it with heat as if it was absorbing into her. Then falling to the ground. Spencer picking her up and carrying her through the woods, dropping her into the lake. Then she remembered her body, feeling as if the water from the lake was rebuilding her as she looked up at the dark sky. Hearing Spencer run away, and then watching Rebecca run too …

She looked at her friend; they were alone outside now. “Spencer, I—”

“Listen,” he interrupted her. “You were my friend, but whatever you are, you have to stick with the story I just told.”

She looked at his arms, confused and hurt by his words. Was that bandage tape poking through his jacket? “What are you saying?” Her words coming out raw and helpless.

“I can’t have anything to do with the police, or you. My mom’s life depends on it,” he barked in a low whisper.

She tried to speak again, but couldn’t.

“Whatever I saw, whatever you really are, I can’t have anything to do with it.” He looked down at the ground. “I can’t be your friend anymore, Donna.” Then he turned around and was off. He was walking so fast, as if he was afraid. Afraid of her …

She just stood there, feeling again like all the life had been sucked out of her being. Her world was shattering around her. Like it always did right before she managed to rebuild it piece by piece; but this no one but God could rebuild.

 

  • * *

 

Spencer

 

Spencer knocked at Rebecca’s door. There were no cars in her driveway, which meant her parents were out of town. A part of him felt sick over what he said to Donna, but another part felt afraid of her as well. He was at her mercy in this situation. If Donna or Rebecca told their stories differently, the police would definitely take him in for more questioning, and run his name and picture, or his mom’s …

Rebecca answered the door. Her face was still very pale, as it had been before he left her. He was surprised to see that Paul was there. What had she told him? Would she tell him? Yeah, he thought, she’s probably called her parents and the police by now!

“Rebecca, I—” Her eyes were swollen and she looked smaller than usual, as if he was talking to a child instead of one of his best friends. “—need to talk to you. Alone.” He looked at Paul, giving the geek a half threatening look. “For a moment.”

“He knows,” she started, her words foreshadowing what he feared. “I told him.”

He looked at them both, feeling the pain of his burns still tearing into him. Flashes of his mom and him packing everything into their old car and moving again went through his mind. Of running for their lives.

He felt sick and unsettled. How was he going to keep Paul, the school’s valedictorian, from talking? He’d probably write an article on it and win some Nobel Prize, while Spencer was back on the run. He took a step toward her, getting in between her and Paul. “How much did you tell him?” he whispered.

“Everything,” she answered loudly. He shook his head, frantic, his mind racing. “He knows more about this than we do. He says there are more people like Donna out there, that they’ll—”

“Stop,” he interrupted her. “I don’t want to know anymore. I have enough to worry about already that has nothing to do with this!” He looked at Paul and Rebecca. He wanted to get as far away from them, from this, as possible. He’d have to tell them both now. “Listen, my mother and I moved here when I was thirteen because my stepfather is a bad guy. He used to beat her and was involved in all this horrible stuff.” He couldn’t tell them the whole depth of it, the memories were too much to combine with the new things that had crashed down on him today. “My mom spoke against him in court and had him put away, but he sent his people after us. Even when we were under witness protection, cops that were working for him told his guys where to find us.” His mind was livid; he’d said too much already, but he had to. “So we ran here on our own, and we’ve been able to stay under the radar ever since. But if the police arrest me, or take my picture, my mother and I are dead!”

“Spencer,” Rebecca tried to speak; shocked by the truth he had always hidden; but then again everyone had always sensed that the reason his mom moved here was “mysterious” and “off.”

“No!” he interrupted her. “I have to go. I’ve talked to the police. They found our stuff. I told them I got upset when Randy almost hit us and went after him, but then Donna stopped me. They think we had nothing to do with that car crash, and it has to stay like that!”

“I can find out if that’s what they really think,” Paul told him.

“No, just leave it alone!” He looked at Rebecca, knowing that, like with Donna, their friendship would never be the same. “You have to forget about this day. Act like it never happened.” His arms were holding her shoulders as if she were small. Then he gave Paul one more “keep your mouth shut” look and left.

He slammed the door behind him and started running. He was afraid of what Donna had become. Afraid that the police would find out everything and take him in for questioning. Afraid his mom would get killed. And most of all afraid he was losing his mind. How could this be happening? Just when he and his mom were feeling under the radar. Now he was closer to crossing an uncrossable line than ever before.

 

  • * *

 

Rebecca

 

The next morning Rebecca woke up on her couch with a blanket thrown over her, keeping her warm. She took a deep breath in relief. It had all been a dream, and now it was over. She stood up, her head felt heavy. As she looked down at her shirt, she saw it was the one she had worn last night … No!

She went over to her kitchen table. There was a sticky note from Paul on it. She slowly sat down on the chair and took another deep breath. It hadn’t been a dream, it had all really happened. She had fallen asleep crying, sitting on the couch with Paul. This is all scientifically impossible! No human being can turn into electricity. It’s like something from a movie!

Her head throbbed again. Her first reaction was to call Donna. Then she remembered this had all happened because of her. She remembered what Paul had said. That there were more like Donna that would kill her if she knew.

Could Donna know what she is? Could she try to kill me? No! Donna would never. Rebecca’s next instinct was to call Spencer, but she quickly dismissed that idea as well. She went upstairs and changed into different clothes, and then headed out with her purse to Paul’s house.

She knocked at the door a short time later and his mother answered. Rebecca had known Paul’s mother well from all the award assemblies Paul and she had gone to.

“Rebecca, how are you?” his mom asked with a smile.

“Fine, Mrs. Cohen, um, is Paul here? He said he’d give me a ride to school today,” Rebecca lied.

“Yes, he’s in the basement, studying as usual. Come on in.”

Paul’s house was so warm and cozy. It already had a Christmas tree in the corner even though Christmas wasn’t for another three months. She walked down the stairs of his basement. It was well lit with music playing. She saw Paul sitting in the corner listening to something with headphones on. He had the place filled with scientific charts and weird experiments. There were several old televisions and laptops he had picked apart, missing all kinds of pieces.

She tapped him on the shoulder and he jumped and turned around quickly. She jumped too, feeling his fear. He looked at her, startled and embarrassed.

“Oh, Rebecca. I’m sorry. I’m just … ” His hands were slightly touching hers. He pulled away when he realized it. Rebecca wished he hadn’t, his touch felt comforting. “On edge.”

Her heartbeat quickened hearing him say that, reminding her of the reality that lay in front of them. “Me too,” she whispered.

“You don’t need to be … ” His glasses began to side down; he pushed them upright. “I got your backpack.” He pointed toward it in the corner. “You can go through it to see if anything’s missing, but because it’s brown it seemed to have blended in.” She felt relieved and amused by how cute Paul was. Even now, he seemed so sweet. She had never looked at him like this before. He signaled for her to follow him through the maze of experiments over to one corner of his room. There were two televisions broken open, their cables all connected to each other, with a radio tangled in the middle. Paul used pliers to cross one cable with another, then plugged his headphones into the TV.

“What is this?” she asked him gently as he crossed a bunch of wires together.

“It’s kind of like a super radio I’ve built.” He moved the antennas on the TV around to face the wall. “It can pick up any frequency in both East and West Applegate.”

He placed the headphones on her ears. She listened. “Going to West Road to watch for speeders, copy,” said a man’s voice.

“Just caught two myself, going to breakfast, copy,” replied a woman’s voice. She recognized the woman. It was Miss Susa, the only woman sheriff the town had.

She looked up at Paul while still listening. He had a nervous smile.

“It’s the Sheriff department. I can pick up whatever they’re saying over their walkie talkies, even the highly blocked stuff”

She took the headphones off, watching Paul in disbelief and amazement. He was an absolute genius. She knew he was able to build computers, he had won a fifteen hundred dollar scholarship for a robot he had built last year, but listening in on police conversations was something she never imagined people really did. They looked at each other, eyes locked for a moment.

“I, ah, have been listening to them all morning. They haven’t mentioned your name involving the accident, but they are looking into it, as I thought,” he told her, breaking the silence.

She just stared at him, admiring his genius and being scared again. Hearing him talk about her and the accident brought back a wave of fear about the whole thing. He looked uncomfortable from her not saying anything. She looked to the floor, trying to make him less nervous, but not able to speak.

“I, ah—” he started babbling, “—soon should be able to pick up cell phone conversations too, I think. I just need to get myself some old MP3 players and a couple rare computer parts and I think I can do it; and then—”

“Paul,” she interrupted him gently.

He looked at her and she felt her eyes water. She wished she could stop herself but she started to cry again. He was all she had now. Her parents were away at some dig that didn’t have cell reception, and her friends were … different now.

“Tell me what danger I’m in.”

 

 

Chapter Four

When Donna was in New York a few trips ago

 

“There is no one like you in the town I’m from,” Donna told Brook, laughing.

“Oh, yeah, what would they call a girl like me?” Brook asked her as she downed her third shot of tequila. She had dragged Donna, who was much younger than her, to a strange, strange place.

“Um, well, if I’d have first seen you, I’d probably call ya a kind of daredevil type,” Donna told her, not touching the shot glass that sat in front of her.

“A daredevil? Girl, you are so country! I know I’m going to find some city girl in you somewhere,” Brook told her with a big smile.

 

  • * *

 

Current day: October First

 

Donna was running very slow, afraid if she got dehydrated too fast she’d turn into electricity again. At least something like electricity. What she really was turning into, she had no idea. It had been two weeks since the accident, and nothing had been right since. She’d changed into “it” eight times now. She’d figured out that drinking enough water or keeping her skin wet was the only way of staying normal.

So when she had nothing else to do but run, she brought five bottles with her. She’d drop them as she ran, that way on her way back she’d have extra water to consume. When she saw Ryan, he was wearing one of his old sweat suits this time. He looked so handsome and perfect as usual. He had big sweaty muscles and perfectly groomed brown hair. His eyes sparkled as he looked at her.

She kept her eyes forward, trying to act like they always had. The path twisted around and they began running in the same direction instinctively; he seemed more far away than ever. The child in Donna wanted to hug her former childhood best friend. Cry into his arms and never let go of him. She wanted to tell him everything. But she knew he’d only act even worse than Rebecca and Spencer had, seeing as their friendship alone was such a ghost. He’d probably call the police, and never want to look at her again. She was too weak to handle that, not just right now, but ever. After all, his shoes were the only things that didn’t disintegrate when she turned into the electric thing for some bizarre reason.

She knew she was running slower than normal but he kept pace with her, listening to his music. As he went to get water from the fountain first, she felt a bit unstable. Feeling her skin turning a bit hot and her heartbeat quicken.

He moved out of the way, saying something to her, but she didn’t hear him. She needed water. Now. When she was done, she turned around, finding him behind her. Usually they spoke one or two words, then they’d separate. Two days ago he’d said, “Welcome back,” because she hadn’t run with him the past week or gone to school. She’d said that she was sick, which was a lie, but at the time she was too much in shock to face reality.

He looked her up and down slowly, concern on his face. “Are you ok?” he asked gently. He put his arm on her shoulder and her heart started beating faster at his touch. All of a sudden she felt alert and nervous at the same time.

“Yeah.” She struggled not knowing what to say. “I’m just, a little tired that’s all.”

He nodded, pulling his hand away. “Do you want me to walk you home?” he asked her next.

“No. Um, I’m fine really.”

Truly all she wanted was for him to walk her home. To feel close to him the whole way, but if she got too dehydrated even with her water being there and turned … She couldn’t risk it, not with anybody. As it was, she’d tried to tell her father everyday this week but she hadn’t found the courage or strength to do so.

“Thanks though,” she told him. “For everything.”

He nodded. She was unsure if he understood the full length of her thank you, but felt too thirsty again to say another thing. They both turned opposite ways and parted from each other. As she walked off, toward the water bottle she had dropped for herself a half a mile away, she imagined he was her boyfriend. That he had his arms around her as he walked her home, and she’d tell him everything, and he’d love her anyway. She imagined he’d look at her with the lust he looked at Lynn with. She imagined she was normal, rich, or at least financially stable, with a mother and father who could explain why this was happening. Explain how her body could possibly be able to do this.

At school that day, Donna only arrived ten minutes late to Mr. Harris’s class. There was something about having no friends to do things with that gave her lots of extra time to get other things done. She had never in her life felt so lonely and isolated before. Even when Ryan had stopped talking to her, she still had managed to find Rebecca and Spencer as new best friends. Right now she had no one, and to top it off, something very frightening was happening to her body.

She sat in her usual seat behind Spencer, who didn’t say a word to her. He didn’t even look at her or make jokes in class. Sometimes she’d walk down the hall hearing him say something funny, but when he saw her he’d turn away. What had been his reason for having nothing to do with her? Something about his mom and the cops, and if that wasn’t the circumstance how would he treat her right now? Would he call the police and watch them take her? Would he still be talking and laughing with her? Rebecca hadn’t given her a reason at all. All of a sudden she and Paul were best friends and were seen everywhere together.

What was Rebecca doing with the knowledge of what was happening to Donna? Had she told Paul? Had she told her parents? Knowing her, she would have called the police and they would be watching Donna right now. Waiting for her to turn into whatever she turned into and take her away. For the first time felt like she didn’t know Rebecca and Spencer at all.

“Donna. Donna!” her teacher called.

She looked up, her attention back to the classroom.

“Come get your test.”

She got up and got her test from the teacher, a little embarrassed. Not like anyone was paying attention to her.

“Didn’t she wear those disgusting overalls yesterday? Who even wears clothes like that in our day and age? Hello, get with the times,” Lynn snickered toward Donna. A couple people laughed. Donna didn’t even look Lynn’s way. She didn’t need to see Lynn’s overly tanned hands wrapped around Ryan. Nor did she remember or care whether she wore her overalls yesterday. Her mind was too much in a haze of confusion.

She stared at the “D” test she’d taken after being “sick” all week and missing the material. Donna wondered how she was really going to move on from this. How she was going to rebuild herself? She had done it when her brother ran away and when they lost the farm. She had done it when Ryan stopped talking to her. She had done it when she became known as the “Fat Gymnast” and a nobody at school. But how was she going to do it now when the pieces she had to pick up and rebuild she didn’t even recognize?

How was she going to do anything?

Lunch was the worst part of the day. It wasn’t like Spencer and Rebecca had forbidden her from sitting at their table, but with them not looking or speaking to her, it was awkward. So Donna resorted to eating her lunch in a bathroom stall. Then she’d sit there for a bit, do a little homework, and then …

Donna looked at her watch, ten minutes left. She could go clean out her locker very slowly, leaving some of the mess for tomorrow. She had gotten through yesterday, and she’d get through today, but what was she going to do for the rest of the year? Now she was very glad she’d missed school last week. That shaved five days off this official jail sentence.

As she walked past the cafeteria toward her locker, she looked at Spencer, who sat with Rebecca and Paul. Rebecca and Paul looked like they were doing math or something and Spencer was keeping to himself, looking at girls in the cafeteria, as usual. They were perfectly fine without her. She stopped by the water fountain and filled her water bottle up, making sure she was hydrated.

 

  • * *

 

Lynn

 

Lynn’s day had started out bad and was getting worse by the minute. Ryan had his hands around her but she did not feel like cuddling. Randy was in his usual terrible mood, and yet all of the other cheerleaders were hitting on him anyway. Tara had twisted her ankle so she couldn’t cheer tonight, which was going to make their whole routine uneven. She’d wished Lucy would have been the one to fall off their pyramid, then she could have just grown a new ankle. To top it off she had training tonight, so there’d be no way she would be able to go over a new routine with any of them.

Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw Ryan watch Donna Young as she walked by, making Lynn’s bad mood heighten even more. Ryan had always been particularly interested in Donna’s well being, but now that she had lost weight, making her breasts seem bigger and her waist seem smaller, Lynn wasn’t standing for him looking at her now. At least Donna and the other two stooges also known as Rebecca, and that annoying cretin Spencer, were in some sort of tiff and weren’t speaking. An advantage to living in a small town like East Applegate, and having a small school, was everyone knew everyone’s business. Or at least they thought they did anyway. The three hadn’t been talking as much. Good, they’re too bothersome to deserve happiness.

She looked at Paul who coincidently was sitting right next to Rebecca and Spencer. That was the other reason why she’d been forced to pay attention to Donna’s pathetic drama. Paul Cohen was her team’s third big assignment. She looked at the dork and couldn’t help to roll her eyes as she watched him. When was she going to finally get to do something more challenging?

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna walked outside after gymnastics class. She had drunk so much water during practice she felt water heavy doing all the tumbling. As she walked along in a daze, she heard a car honking. She ignored it but it got so loud and persistent she finally looked up.

To her shock and bafflement, she saw Brook, an old friend she had met in New York in front of her in a beaten up Ford Mustang. Before she had time to respond, Brook jumped out of the car and hugged her. “Hey, Skinny Gymnast!” Brook yelled out in her loudest city voice.

“What … what are you doing here?” Donna asked, still shocked. She just never pictured in her wildest dreams Brook being in Donna’s little home town.

“Me and a bunch of the New York crew were on a road trip when we met the hottest guy. I decided to stay with him a bit, but then got bored. I remembered you only lived like three hours away so I thought, what the heck.”

Donna smiled the best she could and took a step back, looking at Brook’s new haircut. It was shoulder length now and cut at an angle. She wore a barely there black leather skirt and a white blouse with a small white jacket over it. Her legs, which were the longest legs Donna had ever seen, were bare all the way down to her pointed high heels.

Brook always looked sexy, no matter how trashy her outfits sometimes were. Somehow she always pulled everything together, every accessory perfectly in place. Donna started telling Brook how happy she was to see her. In reality, as much as she loved Brook, she felt how a person felt right after someone they knew had died. Yet there was something to be happy about a short time later. That numb feeling where it’s hard to get excited …

She and Brook went over to the diner when Brook said she was starving after the long drive. As they walked in, she saw Ryan, Randy, Lynn, and the rest of their posse, sitting in the front. Spencer was bussing tables from what Donna could see; he must have taken a job there with his mom. The hostess sat them at a table directly across from Ryan and the others. The group seemed to be staring at Brook. The girls in disgust, the boys in pure lust and amusement. Brook, wasting no time, winked at the boys, not paying attention to the girls sitting next to them.

“You didn’t tell me this hick town had so many hot cowboys,” Brook giggled.

“They belong to the cheerleaders sitting beside them,” Donna whispered.

Brook looked them over slowly. “They’ve got nothing on us,” she told Donna with a smile. “Or at least they won’t once I take in those trousers.” Brook loved making clothes; she wanted to be the next Diane Von Furstenberg. She had even once interned at a big teen magazine a few years ago. Donna smiled at her friend.

“How long are you staying?” Donna asked her.

“As long as my skinny gymnast wants me to,” Brook teased. That was Brook’s annoying nickname for Donna. Donna had told Brook three years ago she used to be known as the “Fat Gymnast” in middle school. Brook had made up her mind at that point to turn her into a skinny gymnast instead, hence the nickname. Donna called Brook “Daredevil” in return.

“I have to warn you, compared to the city, this place is as dull as sand,” Donna told her with a smile, feeling herself again for a moment.

“Don’t you know I love the feeling of sand beneath my feet? Besides, if I get bored I’ll make trouble to entertain us both. Starting with him.” Brook pointed right at Randy and winked at him once more.

Donna smiled, her face now bright red.

As they got up to leave Lynn turned around and looked right at them. “Hmm, not only has Donna yet a third time showed off her goodwill ensemble, but she’s brought along a friend styling the knock off version,” Lynn hissed.

Donna looked at Brook hoping she hadn’t heard. She knew Brook was never one to back down from confrontation, especially from someone four years younger than her. Brook’s face was lit up with amusement as she turned around ever so calmly to face Lynn.

“Kind of like how you’ve chosen to show off your upper half. Ya know, there are these great bras for the elderly in bright red. I think that be a girl like yourself’s kind of style,” Brook told her like a shark snapping toward its prey. Fierce and quick, not giving Lynn a word in edgewise. Lynn, who looked half taken aback by the comment, looked down at her breasts then started off on some kind of insult.

“You just go on and cry your little black heart out,” Brook whistled over Lynn’s voice as she turned and walked out of the diner. Donna followed, afraid to look back. She knew she’d be made fun of by Lynn probably for the rest of the month for that little show, but she didn’t care. The comment reminded her of a sassy version of Spencer’s jokes toward Lynn, making Donna feel normal again for a couple of minutes.

 

  • * *

 

Three days later, Donna was in her backyard practicing gymnastics while Brook talked to some guy on her cell phone. Donna tried to do her back handspring but she twisted the wrong way and fell.

“You ok?”

“Yeah,” Donna told her, standing up slowly and shaking herself. “I’m just distracted, that’s all.”

Brook ended her conversation and walked over to Donna. “By me?” Brook asked.

“Oh, no, not at all.”

Brook being around these past three days had at least given Donna a friend. The only slip up that had happened was last night. Donna had turned into “it” again for a couple of seconds, but ran to the shower before Brook or her father could see. Water was the only way of controlling her body, and now after two and a half weeks a tiny part of Donna wanted answers. The other part of her was afraid.

“Donna, Donna!” Brook called her back to earth.

“Yeah?”

“What’s up with you? You’ve been acting weird ever since I got here. Even more quiet than usual.” Brook took Donna’s arm and gently dragged her over to the hammock in her backyard. They both sat on it. A breeze flowed past them, cooling Donna’s hot skin off. In that moment, Donna wanted to tell her everything. A couple of tears flowed out of her eyes and she turned away hiding them.

She couldn’t risk Brook looking at her like Spencer and Rebecca did now. Like she was some kind of scary creature. It’s not like she could prove what she could do anyway. When she turned it just happened.

“Is it something about your two high school friends not being friends with you any more?” Brook asked her gently.

Donna couldn’t control it now, and started crying. Donna hated crying, she was usually able to control herself. “It’s just that, I can’t believe how much we’ve all changed in such a short period of time. It’s like I don’t even know them, and I have nobody at—”

“You have me!” Brook interrupted her. “I’m here for you just like I am in the city during the summer, ok? Now Donna, we all grow up and change—”

Not like this! Donna thought.

“—and sometimes it intimidates people who haven’t grown up yet, or people change and go off in different directions. You’ve lost weight and have become a woman. Of course people are going to get jealous. That’s the game of life,” Brook told her.

Donna nodded, again thinking to herself that she had changed in ways she couldn’t explain or understand. Her life had become so much more complicated than Brook could ever guess, but she let the words sink in, some of them.

“When I went to high school I barely had any friends. Everyone was so fake, ya know? No one knows who they really are in high school anyway. The one person that I thought I’d stay in touch with, I’ve never seen him since graduation. And all the girls that treated me like I was city trash, and thought they were SO above me in high school, when I see those witches now in New York, now we’re all the same. The world could care less who any of us pretended to be.”

Donna nodded again, imagining Ryan, Lynn, and her, all on the same level years from now. It was hard to believe, especially in a small town where the elderly still gossiped about which football player won which game in 1980. This town didn’t forget anything, you were who you were …Yet Brook was almost four years older than Donna, and from the real world outside of East Applegate where Donna would one day be free. Maybe she was right?

“Cheer up.” Brook wiped away a couple of Donna’s tears.

“I have a date tonight, and I think you kind of have a thing for his brother.”

Donna looked up at Brook, confused.

“Ryan, no Randy, I think that’s his name,” Brook explains. “The older one.”

Donna’s heart started beating fast, thinking about one of her friends with Randy.

“You’re kidding!”

“No, I plan on sucking his tonsils out,” Brook went on.

“But Randy’s still in high school!”

“There is nothing wrong with having a very sexy boy toy. Besides, he’s almost my age right? He said he was held back.”

Yeah, he was held back, Donna knew. Once when he was in the fifth grade, then again in eighth and eleventh grade. He was now one grade ahead of Donna even though he should’ve graduated last year. Randy was notorious for being a trouble maker and a bully, always having his dad bail him out …

“Just be careful, he’s a heart breaker.”

“After you’ve had your heart broken so many times, you learn to stop giving it away,” Brook told her numbingly. Donna looked at her friend, feeling so sad that she felt that way, but knowing she had learned similar lessons with other things in life. She’d learned it with her brother. Every year they went to New York to find him, but after a while, she stopped wishing they’d find him and her dad could start farming again, and money would never be a problem.

Donna stopped thinking that would ever happen years ago …

 

  • * *

 

Lynn

 

Lynn sat on Ryan’s lap in his Hummer. They were in the school parking lot, but the windows were tinted. He kissed her fiercely, feeling her body up. She gave in without question, she always did. Ryan was so … unbelievable. Every time a girl looked at him, she fell in love. Wanted him to be hers, like …

“After this,” he kissed her on her neck, “we need to talk.”

She pulled away from him. Whatever he “needed to talk about” it better be important. She had taken good care of her body’s shape to look perfect today, just the way he liked it: tall, small waist, long legs, long hair, bluish eyes.

“Is this about training?” she asked him, a bit excited that maybe he overheard his father talking about something important for them.

“No, it’s about you at school.” His voice was still deep and hot from them kissing seconds ago. She rolled her eyes, annoyed. She had the slightest feeling she knew where this was going, and if so, she wasn’t in the mood. This day was already going bad enough. Right now, she needed him kissing her, making it all seem far away.

She kissed him slowly, then started down his neck. They weren’t talking about this now and that was that.

“Lynn,” he started, pulling her a tiny bit away, enough that they were face to face.

“What more would you like me to do now, Ryan, besides what any other male would enjoy? His girlfriend with any size chest he fancies making out with him!” she snapped viciously. She moved away from him back into the other seat, annoyed. He looked pissed now, too, but she didn’t care, let him feel the way she did.

He hesitated, looking at her and then looking away. “Look, if someone is annoying, or in our way, fine. But—”

“Just say it plain and simple like a man, Ryan!” she yelled, knowing now exactly what he was going to say.

“Lay off Donna Young,” he snapped back coldly, speaking to her more like her team captain than her boyfriend.

“How can you even think about Donna Young while I’m in your car with my shirt off!”

“You know it’s not like that,” he told her.

“Like hell it isn’t!” She grabbed her new pink shirt and started putting it back on, disgusted. “Maybe I would forget about her if you would!” She started putting her belt back on. “Every time the girl trips, I can see the concern on your face. You practically hold your breath until she gets to class safe and sound like a little mouse,” she mocked him.

“She almost died because of me! We’ve grown up together, that’s it.” He grabbed Lynn’s hands and pulled her close. “I’m with you,” he told her now sincerely.

Because I’m not Donna, or because you want me to be? She pushed the thought out of her mind as quickly as it came. She and Ryan were on the same team, and he was her boyfriend. She had the power to fill out his every fantasy. Of course he wanted her and not Donna. She looked at him straight in the eye, still using her pissed off mood to her advantage, to get what she wanted.

“Then forget about her, don’t look at her, or smile at her. If she trips, act like you don’t see her. Think about it as a mission if that’s what it takes. Forget about her, and I will too. If you don’t see her, I won’t see her.”

 

  • * *

 

Randy

 

When he got to the movies he saw her, Donna’s friend that had been staying at her house the whole week. He still couldn’t believe this girl was friends with someone like Donna. She looked too wild and free to be friends with anyone around here.

She was tall and leggie. Her short ruffled skirt revealed just about everything, and that lacy top … Randy could barely keep himself contained. She was a city kind of girl. Looking at her in East Applegate was like looking at a gator in the desert. She just didn’t fit.

She walked right up to him confidently. “Hey, cowboy.”

“Hey, yourself.” He flicked his lighter on and off, juggling it in his right hand, sensing the flame in his veins, controlling it.

“So what are we doing tonight?” she asked him as the wind blew through her hair.

“Whatever,” he answered. He looked around; it was going to be a cool, windy night for a change. His first night off in a while.

“Well, you planned for us to meet in front of a movie theater. Did you want to see a movie?” she asked him smoothly.

“Sure.”

As they walked toward the theater, she stared at the titles and babbled something about each one. This part of the date was the boring pointless part. It was the torture part that girls did to lead up to the fun part. Not that Brook was a girl. She was definitely a woman. Not that he’d act any different with her than he did with the rest of the girls he dated. The reality was always the same. He could never truly get close to someone normal like them, so why even bother to try? They were beautiful, but that was all they could ever be. It was something he constantly had to drill into his brother’s head. People like Ryan and Randy had power, but did not have the luxury of getting close to anyone. Not that Randy ever would want to …

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna stood on her balance beam in her backyard. It was 9:30 and her dad was inside on the couch with Smoky fast asleep. Her version of the balance beam was a piece of long wood on two tree stumps that was somewhat sturdy. She used it a lot, though, when she was alone. She thought the chore of working harder to balance on it actually helped her to do better on a regular beam.

As she did her beginning pose, she felt lonely and empty. Her life had melted into this existence … She went down into a back bridge and did a back walkover. Doing it seemed to make some of her stress go away. Then she took a deep breath and took a step back. Jumping into a back handspring, then not stopping as she continued to do a back tuck and land. She missed the beam, her legs falling to the ground. She landed the right way, knowing if she’d have been on a higher beam she could have hurt herself. Gosh! Melissa had that set down, she’d have to be able to nail it and do better if she wanted to make the team.

She still couldn’t believe Brook was out with Randy right now. Randy was just so … blunt.… He treated most girls like they were just regular conveniences. Every week he’d be out with a different cheerleader, and he’d barely talk or even give them a look when he wasn’t kissing them. They were just there. Not that they minded. Going out with an Applegate boy was like going out with royalty, even walking with them raised eyebrows at school. They were the richest, most handsome boys around here. Even though Ryan was the hottest, Randy was still practically Colin Farrell compared to the other guys in town.

And Ryan had been her friend, long before the rest of the town saw him the way she had always seen him. She brushed the thought away. Thinking about it was pointless.

Now she was thinking about Spencer and Rebecca, and …

She felt the heat come over her, that feeling of her arms falling asleep as they heated up, like her cells had become tiny balls that jumped around inside her uncontrollably. Then just as before when she tried to fight it, she looked at her arms and saw that they were transparent, and glowing that bluish color like electricity.

She was wearing her favorite shorts, and yeah, her legs were not just transparent, they were gone. She jumped down from the beam, feeling herself move more freely, as if she was the same weight as a small cat. She looked around, making sure her dad hadn’t come out.

She started toward the house, needing the water to change her back. The heat feeling of jumpy, tiny molecules in her body was everywhere: in her face, her brain, her eyes, her feet, and even in her hair. She moved quickly and nervously, but then tripped and fell before she could move. She didn’t know how to maneuver, walk, or anything when her body was … whatever it was. She just didn’t feel like she could control it.

She stood up, feeling the lightness of her body. It felt hot, not like she were on fire hot, but a different kind of sharp hotness that wasn’t burning her. She walked over to the hose, still getting used to how fast her body could move when she felt like she didn’t weigh anything. Then she had an idea … a stupid, dumb idea. She should have been hosing off, then creeping past her dad, naked, running to her room. Instead she looked around again, she was alone …

She walked back over to the balance beam and stepped onto it. She didn’t quite understand why sometimes she went through things and other times she didn’t. She went down into a back walkover. Her body felt almost not there, not like the gravity was different, but like she didn’t even feel the stretch. As she flipped back up, she moved so fast and felt so light that she almost fell and lost her balance. Yet the beam didn’t even shake or feel unstable to her.

Then she took a deep breath. Even breathing was different. She didn’t even feel the air go inside her yet she felt rejuvenated. She stepped toward the edge of the beam, then jumped back into the air, doing a back handspring and then a double back tuck. Her body felt so light. Even as she landed perfectly in a split, she knew she could have done another back tuck or so.

She smiled in amazement. For the first time she wasn’t completely panicked when she was in what ever this was state. If only she could feel this way during tryouts. She looked at her hands; they were still transparent and a little more purplish blue. She held them up and looked through them, it really was like looking at pure glowing lightning at night during a thunderstorm. Only it was in the shape of her body.

She held her right hand out in the air and moved it back and forth. It looked just like if you ran a sparkler through the air. Her hand’s light moved so fast it could spell out words or shapes. She made a couple of circles and squares. Then she spelled out her name, feeling like a small child again. A couple of minuets later, she saw a truck go down the road. Even though it was probably to far away to see her, she ran over to the hose.

All her feelings of nervousness and fear rushed back to her, and she needed water again. Now. She went to grab the hose’s nozzle but her hand went right through it, making crackling noises; the nozzle must have still been a little damp. Then, in a panic, she grabbed the nozzle again, and this time she was able to touch it. She saw her hands glowed a little less, still transparent but a little more solid looking.

She turned the nozzle and felt the water spurt on her hands, and then that feeling of the water soaking into her, feeding her skin and bringing her back. This time it was faster then normal. In seconds her hands were back to human looking, and she could feel her body was too.

She paused, staring at her hands in half relief and half questioning. She still had the fear that the water wouldn’t work and she’d be stuck like that forever, even though this time it wasn’t as scary as usual. She wondered, examining what had happened, if had she made herself turn partly back into a human to turn the nozzle. Was she actually getting used to this now?

 

  • * *

 

Brook

 

Brook sat with Randy at the movie. He had his arm around her comfortably. They were watching some old southwestern film. She didn’t know there were old movie theaters like this that actually showed old movies. Everything in this town was so ancient. If Randy hadn’t had the new iPhone she would have questioned if she had gone back in time. Especially the way everyone dressed here. So plain and hickish, even the snotty girls who thought they were hot stuff. Their clothes were probably from Wal-Mart. Not that it was below her. She was the queen of cheap, but she could make hot fashionable clothes for the same prices they probably paid for theirs.

She looked at her nails, feeling very bored, but noticing how Randy’s hand kept sinking lower and lower on her thigh. Finally! She looked up at his handsome bad boy face, his body felt hard behind hers. She curled closer feeling his muscles. His body made her feel so warm.

She looked up at him and he kissed her, hard, his other hand sinking down behind her back.

“Lets get out of here,” she whispered. Why should they fake their way through anymore of his idea of a date? They were both here for the same reason.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna got dressed and walked back downstairs. It hadn’t been hard to sneak past her dad. He slept like a bear. But he was awake now, reading some novel about runaways.

“Another book, Dad?” she asked him gently, sitting in the La-Z-Boy chair across from him, feeling a bit uncomfortable. She usually only really talked with her dad on long drives to New York or New Jersey, wherever her dad’s PI thought her brother was. Even then they were both pretty much silent. He’d ask her about school, and she’d give him a couple of answers and that was that. Or he’d lecture her on bits and pieces about his father.

“The son of a woman in South Applegate went missing today. The case is very similar to your brother’s, so I thought I’d help. The first three days a child goes missing are very crucial,” he told her, his eyes still glued to his book.

Donna stared into the TV; he always left it on when he was reading. They had it rigged to a used satellite dish her dad had bought at a garage sale. It was always picking up different channels. An old episode of Roswell was on the Syfy Channel at the moment. Randy was kind of like the character Michael, only more cruel. Thinking about it made her think about Brook on her date. It was 10:40 now. She wondered what they were doing. Wondered what she and Ryan would be doing if she was on a date right now … I wish.

“Dad, do you think Mom could have been adopted?” she asked him out of the blue.

He put his book down. “Now what gives you a crazy idea like that?”

“Grandma and Grandpa just seem so normal.”

They were both super old; they’d had her mom when they were older. She’d been a change of life baby, but Donna had been thinking maybe she was adopted. Maybe she was … Well Donna didn’t exactly know, but something like what Donna was becoming. After all, she had to be turning into this somehow. Maybe her mom could turn into electricity too. Maybe this whole thing was happening because of something she didn’t know about her mom.

“Who else would you like them to be?” her dad asked her.

“Well, I don’t know, was there anything strange about Mom? Ya know, something unexplainable?”

Her dad laughed a little bit, clearly not getting what she was asking. “She had the most beautiful eyes. They were so damn blue they almost looked purple, but then that’s why I called her by her middle name, Violet,” her dad started. “She always saw the good in people, even when I didn’t understand it, and she was very ambitious, your mother. The town was too small for her imagination.”

Donna stopped herself from drifting away in imagining her mom. She did it often, picturing what she would be like if she were alive. How different Donna’s life would be. Her brother would not have run away, her dad would still be running the farm. Maybe Donna would be more like Lynn, know more about makeup and all that stuff right from the get go instead of having to figure it out herself. How different everyone’s lives would be if she had never been born …

“Oh, well thanks, Dad,” she told him, ending the conversation. She was sure if her mom had the ability to turn into some kind of lightning ghost her dad would have mentioned that.

As he picked up his book and continued reading, Donna stared into the television set. Roswell was just ending and Isabel, a character on the show, was changing a bottle of ketchup into mustard with the flick of her hand like magic. Is that the answer? Am I some kind of alien? Donna thought. Maybe some ship abducted the real Donna Young and dropped me off because they didn’t want me. Maybe I was abducted a month ago, and when that car came, the side effects they gave me kicked in. If not, then what am I? Why is my body doing things that are not possible? Maybe I’m just crazy … Or maybe I’m cursed.

 

  • * *

 

Lynn

 

Lynn and Ryan were at Lynn’s house, in her room. After a day of arguing and training, Lynn was very much looking forward to the making up part of the night. Ryan took off Lynn’s shirt, and she kissed his neck. As much as she hated Ryan sometimes, his kisses somehow made her want to surrender to him every night. She took his shirt off, almost ripping it she was in so much of a hurry. His muscles were unreal, and his bright bluish green eyes seemed to almost glow.

Then the alarm on her phone from the power plant started ringing, loudly, and Ryan’s cell phone started to go off too. Lynn pulled away. “Damn it!”

She’d been wanting to hear that alarm, but not tonight. In a second Ryan was fully dressed and at the door. She grabbed her shirt as they bolted down the stairs. He took off, going way ahead of her. She ran to her car, pulled her shirt completely on and took off. Ryan would no doubt almost be to the power plant by now.

Lynn grunted, then turned her music on as loud as it could go. Whoever has caused this disturbance is going to pay! Lynn thought, deciding already that she was going to show no mercy. Her cell phone rang; she clicked it on, knowing it was going to be Ryan, Randy, or that short annoying Kent.

“It’s a code nine, but Kent said we can’t go without Randy,” Ryan told her over the phone.

“Let me guess, he’s not answering his phone!” Lynn said, even more annoyed.

By the time they could get him and go after whatever idiot thought he could escape, it would probably be five or six in the morning.

“I’m like one minute away from your guest house, I’ll handle this!” Lynn told Ryan, and hung up the phone. Then she slammed her foot on the gas and rushed over there, knowing Ryan would probably speed over once he got the full debriefing. She parked in the driveway and practically ran toward the door. Ryan sped up to her, meeting her there.

“I told you I would handle this!” she barked.

He didn’t say anything, making her even more furious. He unlocked the door and they went in. The TV was on in the living room, some sports show. They walked over to his room, and before Ryan could knock, Lynn opened the door. The lights were off, and Randy stood facing them with a girl in his arms. The girl’s back was to them, and they were kissing.

Randy opened his eyes and motioned with the hand not holding the girl to go away. The girl, that slutty friend of Donna’s, still didn’t even notice they were there. She kept slobbering on Randy like he was a piece of meat or something. Not that Randy would ever mind; his pants were practically off. He gave Lynn and Ryan mean looks to leave them alone. Before a flame of fire could burst up and block them at the door, Lynn walked over to whatever her name was and pulled her off of him.

“Excuse me!” Brook half screamed, pulling her arms away from Lynn in a twisted self defense motion. Lynn looked the girl up and down. The slut actually knew how to defend herself. Bravo!

“Sorry to interrupt, but Randy has something called a commitment he needs to do right now! If you can’t grasp the meaning of that word, then there’s an eighth grade teacher who lives five houses away who can explain it to you.”

 

  • * *

 

Ryan

 

Ryan watched as his very pissed off girlfriend ranted. Lynn had been PMSing all day. He was hoping a nice night would make them better, but apparently that night wouldn’t be happening anytime soon.

“Actually, little girl, he already made a commitment to me tonight. Whatever kinky things you and your boyfriend are into, you’ll have to take a number!” Brook told Lynn.

Ryan couldn’t help but laugh under his breath. This Brook girl was much taller than Lynn had decided to be tonight, and she had a mouth on her too. Maybe Lynn had finally met her match.

“Wow, you just went from a dirty slut, to a disgusting one in ten seconds. Congratulations!” Lynn screamed at Brook, furious.

Randy walked over to Ryan. “Sounds like Lynn seriously needs to get some.”

“We’ve gotten called, Randy,” Ryan told him.

“No, I’m sure you two just need a baby sitter, and Dad thought, why not bother me? After all, it’s not like I’m good for anything else,” Randy spat bitterly.

“Let’s just get this over with,” Ryan told his older brother, not in the mood to argue. Sometimes he felt like he should be the older sibling. Though he couldn’t blame a guy for being upset for being interrupted, but that was the price they all paid to be what they were.

“Whatever. Just learn how to control your girlfriend,” Randy said, turning to the two girls throwing insults at each other. “Hey,” Randy yelled next. “If we’re going let’s go.”

“Don’t think I’m done with you yet!” Lynn yelled to Brook as she walked away.

Ryan walked out the door and Randy and Lynn followed, Randy leaving Brook in his bedroom alone. Sometimes Ryan couldn’t believe how blunt his brother was with girls. He always just took what he wanted and left it at that. Ryan wondered if he’d ever be like that one day. Sure Lynn could be a pain, but not only was she the most attractive girl at school, she was also his team member. In just three years, they’d been through so much training and small mission work together. Would he really break up with her and let another guy touch her?

Then there was Donna, the first girl he had ever liked but given up, who naturally was getting more attractive everyday. The girl he’d almost gotten killed when they were children. Would he ever have to watch her be with another guy, when he knew if he had just been born normal he’d be that guy? Walking her home instead of that annoying creep Spencer?

Would they still be friends right now, or would they be together? He pushed the thoughts away as he sped ahead of Lynn and Randy to the plant. He’d never be normal, so there was no chance of imagining life as if he was.

 

  • * *

 

Rebecca

 

Rebecca woke up bright and early and began to get dressed. She tried on two different outfits; a white blouse and black pants, then her sunflower dress with a pink blouse. Either way I still look like a little girl, she thought to herself. She was so petite she still could fit into children sizes. She pulled back her brownish red hair, feeling defeated, wondering why she cared about this anyway. For all she knew the world could be ending tomorrow. The FBI could come and take her away. Or like she had dreamed, maybe she was really in a crazy house and drugged up on medication. With all these thoughts and fears, she wanted to look nice … For Paul.

Before a month ago, Paul had just been a very smart upperclassmen who occasionally reveled some of his computer tricks and research. Now he was the only person in the world she thought she could trust. When she wasn’t with him she wished she was. As weird as everything was becoming, she couldn’t help but smile at his ways of organizing and taking things apart to build super cameras, and advanced computer tablets, that sparkle in his eyes when he explained things to her.

For years she’d liked Spencer. Wishing all those attempts he made with other girls could have been with her, but now it was getting harder and harder to talk to him about anything. Even though Spencer was taller and had more muscle than Paul, she felt safer with Paul and confused with Spencer.

She missed having another girl she could talk to about this. Donna had been her best friend, but now she feared Donna might be the one to end all their lives. She still argued this in her head. Donna had told her she was a different person when she went to the city. What if she was on one of these teams Paul talked about, along with her friend with the long legs who was like three or four years older then her? Was it a coincidence she was staying with Donna now?

Rebecca headed out the door, locking it and setting the alarm. She usually never bothered, but now that alarm was what got her through each day. Paul had spent the night a week ago, until her parents had gotten back. They were on the edge of showing their recent findings to a TV network. They had so much going on and were always in their office working. If all this went through, they might be going to Egypt next month for filming. Which meant she would be alone …

Rebecca practically ran in her sunflower dress and blouse over to Paul’s, taking the shortcut through the walking trail. When she arrived, Paul’s mom’s car wasn’t in the driveway. She knocked at the door, but there was no answer. Her heart started beating and she started to sweat even though it was cloudy this morning.

She knocked again and there was still no answer. Oh Gosh! Paul, please be ok! She walked around the house, and ducked down to the small window leading into his basement. The lights were off but it looked the same. Goose bumps went down her arms and up her spine. Paul was always here in the early morning. Where was he?

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna got back from jogging late. Ryan hadn’t been there which had given her the freedom to run wild. She was so worried she’d turn in front of him one day. She dreamt about him and her father, looking at her the way Spencer had. Her father was at Mrs. Taylor’s, helping her with her missing daughter. Her dad always dropped everything when a child went missing, even if it meant him not working for months at a time and them going without power. Donna used to be bitter at her father for it. He never came to any of her gymnastics shows or anything like the things he did for the missing kids, but she knew her father’s heartbreak. How could she be selfish enough to be angry about that?

Donna went upstairs and jumped in the shower, being careful not to wake Brook up who was sleeping in her bed. Afterward, when Donna heard the rain outside, she felt comforted by the sounds of the falling water. It was magical, made her feel safe.

She opened the trap door to the attic, and climbed up the ladder inside with a flashlight. Dust from opening the door puffed up all over her, sticking to her wet post-showered body. There were cobwebs everywhere and Donna hoped she wouldn’t run into any rats or worse. Living in the country made rats, raccoons, and foxes a normal thing. Especially with all the uncut fields surrounding their house. She pushed a few boxes she knew were full of her mom’s things toward the entrance, and looked through some of her dad’s boxes. Hoping to find some kind of clue to the mystery of herself.

“Hey, what cha doing up there, Skinny Gymnast?” Brook yelled at the doorway.

“Nothing,” Donna said as she dragged some of the boxes down, handing them to Brook and then grabbing the other. “I’m just in the mood to look through some of my mom’s stuff.”

“Wish I could say that about my mom. All the ghosts in her closet would probably do worse than haunt me if I went digging through that crap,” Brook told her.

Donna gave her only friend the best sympathetic look she could come up with. “I could do this later, if you want to get breakfast,” Donna offered.

“No way, your like my little innocent baby sister.”

Donna smiled shyly while rolling her eyes.

“I’m up for doing anything you want on the first day I’ve been with you when you’ve had enough guts to skip school. I’ll make a daredevil out of you before my stay’s over,” Brook went on.

Donna laughed.

 

  • * *

 

Rebecca

 

Rebecca entered the school hallway late and soaking wet. She was freezing and grateful she didn’t see anyone upon entering because she knew she looked a mess. She shook her moccasins out on the small carpet and headed toward her locker. She slowed down when she saw Lynn leaning against Ryan at his locker, which was a couple of feet away from hers.

“If we have to wait here, we might as well have some fun,” Lynn was saying to Ryan who was staring down past her neck.

They glanced at Rebecca as she walked by but then went back to their own private conversation. She was a nobody to them, not even worth acknowledgement in their eyes. At least Lynn didn’t make fun of her like she did Donna and Spencer. Spencer kind of asked for it, but Rebecca never understood why Lynn was so cold to Donna. Then again, this was Lynn Eris, the most beautiful and popular girl at school. She never ever looked bad, not even on rainy days. Rebecca used to wish in middle school that instead of her being born smart she could have been born looking like Lynn.

Rebecca opened her locker and grabbed her bag. She did most of her homework during homeroom, so why should she keep bringing it back and forth. After her stuff being almost found the day of the accident, Rebecca had learned not to carry around as much, and she took her name off of everything. Even her graphing calculator, which was very, very, expensive.

Rebecca shut her locker and right as she turned toward her classroom she saw him: Paul. He was standing in the hallway, looking right at her with such emotion in his eyes. At that moment, Rebecca forgot she was at school, and that there was anyone else around. She ran up to him. “Paul,” she cried as she hugged him. “I was so worried,” she whispered into his ear.

He smiled at her, fixing his glasses. “We can go over our projects at lunch,” he told her loudly.

She nodded, reading his message. All of a sudden they were in the school again, and down the hall behind Paul was Randy lighting a cigarette. Was it just Rebecca’s imagination or was he looking at Paul? She looked up. Paul glanced at Ryan and Lynn who were still whispering to each other behind them.

“Come on,” he said, taking her hand in his. “I’ll walk you to class.”

Having him hold her hand as they walked over to her computer class made her feel so warm and seemed to take some of her fear away. She was silent, wondering why he’d decided to code their message in front of Lynn, Ryan, and Randy. Then she felt goose bumps go down her spine as she stepped into her classroom alone, without Paul’s cool hands. Could the others Paul spoke about be her age, like Donna? Could they be in her class right now? Or could they be … No, there’s no way.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Brook and Donna had sorted through two boxes of her dad’s football trophies and her mom’s prom pictures.

“Your dad was a hottie!” Broke told Donna as she looked at the pictures.

“Him and my mom were king and queen,” Donna told her. “She wasn’t dating him then, I don’t think.”

“They look pretty in love.”

“Yeah, she was engaged to someone else though, look at the engagement ring,” Donna said, pointing to the big ring on her wedding finger.

“Wow,” Brook said looking at the size of the ring. “So your mom was engaged to some other guy, but realized she was in love with the town’s star football player. Sounds like a movie.”

“Yeah, a movie without a happy ending,” Donna added.

“Donna, loving someone who loves you back is a magical ending, no matter what happens next. I don’t think anyone in our generation even has a clue to what true love really is.”

“Says the girl who never gives her heart away,” Donna teased.

“You’ll learn one day, trust me.”

Donna opened up another box that had her mom’s name on it but saw a bunch of newspaper clippings and ribbons. Brook grabbed a ribbon out and read it. “First place in the Applegate magic show. Doug Young.”

“My dad hates magic.” Her heart started beating. “The date says 1952, this had to have been my grandfather.” She picked up a newspaper clipping and read it. It said her grandfather’s trick of levitation had made the news and as the winner he was going to perform his trick in Washington D.C. in front of the Vice President and the soldiers just returning from war.

“Seems both your dad and your grandpa were town legends, ha,” Brook started.

Donna stared at the article reading it over and over. If by town legend you mean my father who can barely pay the power bill and my grandfather who murdered someone and then got murdered himself … Her dad hated to even bring up Grandpa in a conversation, but she had to ask him about this. If her grandfather’s trick was great enough to be performed in front of the Vice President, could it have been more then a trick? Could he have been like her?

 

 

Chapter Five

 

Spencer

 

Spencer scraped off the last piece of gum underneath Mr. Harris’s desk. I hate this place! he thought to himself. Mr. Harris walked in.

“That’s your and Mr. Mart’s classrooms. What do you say we call this a wrap!”

“Mr. Klingalsmith, your detention was to do Mr. Smith’s and Mrs. Smith’s classrooms also,” Mr. Harris instructed.

“Why don’t I just rent the movie instead?” Spencer joked.

“Spencer,” the teacher began.

“Oh, come on, Mr. Harris. There is no man on earth who wouldn’t want to kick back and watch Angelina Jolie,” Spencer continued with his charade.

The teacher stopped, smiled, then started again. “Ya know, I had quite a bit of wit too, when I was your age, and there’s nothing wrong with being funny, really. Statistically speaking, people who laugh more live longer.”

“You’ve finally seen the light. What a relief.” Spencer acted as if he was going to walk out the door.

“BUT you and Miss Eris repeatedly interrupt my class over and over. It’s getting very tiresome.”

“I agree, and ya know. Maybe if the girl would actually be forced to serve a detention she’d stop, but no, she preys on the helpless, and then skips detention to get her nails done. Where’s Batman when you need him?” Spencer continued, on a roll now. “In fact, since she and I were supposed to do all four classrooms together, and I did two rooms, that’s half of a class rooms. I say that’s worth, what, a get out of detention I can use later?”

“Ok, ok, Mr. Klingalsmith, you’ve made your point. You can leave.”

Spencer smiled victoriously. He was already an hour late to work but figured his mom would cover for him. As he left the classroom, he thought for the first time that Lynn’s special status had actually helped him get out of detention. He’d make sure to turn that into material for tomorrow’s class.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna watched the clock, wondering when her dad was going to finally come home. She needed to ask him about Grandpa. Even if he only spat out two words, it would be enough. Next week she’d have to stop by her grandmother’s for Thanksgiving before going over to the Applegate’s, so then she could look around there also. She might be alone, but she was going to get to the bottom of this.

She heard a loud noise come from the downstairs closet, and Smoky started barking. She jumped, backing away toward the door. She felt this time the instant her body turned. The heat, the feeling of her skin turning into little balls and jumping around, and falling asleep at once. She didn’t even have to look in the mirror to know what she had just turned into.

“Brook!” she yelled instinctively. She didn’t even know she could speak in her “it” form, but she had without thinking of it. There was no answer, and Donna all of a sudden felt very afraid and felt in her body a painless static.

“It’s just me! I’m trying to find some old material and the shelf fell!” Brook yelled at last.

The phone started to ring. Donna shook, her heart racing. Well, at least she felt more connected with her body or whatever she was now. She felt like her whole being was beating, as if she was one big heart.

Donna walked over to the phone in the kitchen and tried to pick it up. Instead of her hand going through it, pure electricity started coming out of the phone and into her hand. Donna stepped away, afraid. The phone was dead but she could hear the one in her dad’s room ringing. It stopped after a moment.

“Donna!”

“Just a second!” Donna yelled, hearing Brook come down the stairs. Donna panicked, not knowing what to do. She looked down at her reflection in a frying pan and saw that she didn’t even look like even half of a human being. She wasn’t just glowing transparent; all she was now was a bright electric light formed in the shape of a human, like some kind of alien or something.

She tried to close her eyes and concentrate, like when she was in the backyard, to make herself turn back, but she couldn’t. Her heart and body beat so intensely, and she felt so light, as if any moment she’d just evaporate or explode. She ran right through the wall to the outside rain. It was thundering and very dark. She felt the water pour into her, reforming her face, skin, hair, everything.

The minute she felt whole she walked over to the front door, opened it, and stepped inside naked. Brook was there with Smoky, staring at her. “Wow, Donna!” Brook started. “Do you like, have a boy out there or something?”

Donna took a deep breath, walking over to the couch and taking the throw off of it and covering herself. “The, um, shower wasn’t working,” Donna lied. It was the only thing she could think of, as dumb as it sounded. She went upstairs to her room and saw that all her clothes were on the floor in a huge pile.

Donna turned to Brook. “Why are my clothes on the floor?”

“I’m just doing a little restyling,” Brook said in a proud voice.

“Restyling?” Donna dropped the throw and pulled a long baggie T-shirt on.

“Yeah, your dad called and said he’s going out of town on the search with a bunch of others, which only makes our plans even better because now you have no curfew.”

“Plans?”

“We, my dear, are going to party and are going to dance all night long just like we do in the city.”

“But, Brook, East Applegate is nothing like the city.”

“Yes, well where we’re going is not in East Applegate; it’s a surprise. Now come on, I already have your outfit planned out.” She grabbed Donna and dragged her into the laundry room, where Brook had Donna’s mom’s old sewing machine out. On the machine she had a tiny skirt made out of Donna’s old trousers with pink lace material from Donna’s nightgown sewn around the skirt.

“Wow.” Donna started looking at the skirt as Brook held it up, excited.

“Isn’t it hot?”

Those trousers had been Donna’s oldest; she had owned them since she was thirteen. She always used them after gymnastics. She had in the last week burned two of her other favorites when she’d accidentally “turned,” and only had two more left.

“It’s, great, um, only, it’s kind of short for me.”

“Donna.” Brook held them up to Donna’s waist. “I love you and all, but everything you wear is meant for someone who is like 200 pounds, and your not 200 pounds anymore. Now tonight if you wear this skirt and my tan top, with your hot little gymnast figure, you’ll have guys galore. Trust me, there are some hotties coming our way.”

 

  • * *

 

Randy

 

Randy and Ryan stood outside the diner. He pulled out his second cigarette and without him even thinking twice, the cigarette lit itself, and he inhaled the smoke.

“Man, ya know, that’s really getting out of control,” Ryan spat, pissed off.

Randy stared ahead half ignoring his brother as Miss Klingalsmith took out the trash. Her skirt looks shorter today …“What’s getting out of hand is Dad insisting I go with you and Lynn on every pathetic joke of a mission he assigns us to.”

“Don’t complain to me, you brought that on yourself,” Ryan told him.

“Ya know,” Randy pissed too now, “you can pretend you’re so much better and try to act like the older brother, but progressing physically doesn’t mean crap if you don’t progress mentally.”

“Here we go,” Ryan rolled his eyes.

“Everyone else is going, Ryan; you are staying put!” Randy yelled. “All me, Dad, even your girlfriend keep telling you is to stop caring so much about normal people. We aren’t normal, and we’ll never be. We save them when it’s convenient for the team. Every person you care for outside the team you put in danger, and it will be me Dad assigns to wipe the blood off your hands.”

“So what would you have me do?” Ryan asked, controlling his anger. “Quit the football team? Flunk the tenth grade and do everything I can to screw myself? If I did things your way, you wouldn’t even allow me to date Lynn, would you? You’d have me do the same thing you did to her. You didn’t deserve her, I do, and it burns you.”

“You deserve her? Don’t kid yourself. She’s the cheerleading captain, and now that I’m gone you’re the top athlete. It’s Dad’s dream come true, and you do it cause he loves it!” Randy yelled and didn’t care who heard. His brother was his dad’s tool, and it made him sick.

“It always comes down to this doesn’t it? Dad encourages me because he knows I’ll listen.”

“Wake up, little brother, wake up and become a man. You think I don’t know who that book on gymnastics is for?” Randy knew his brother couldn’t make excuses now. “The two women Dad ever made a commitment with are both dead, and now you put one of their daughters lives on the line. Sooner or later this obsession will break you and Lynn up, and then they’ll both fall because of you. Then you’ll wish you would have listened to me.”

Randy could see it all happen before his very eyes, his brother wasn’t ready for a real mission because all it took was one mistake and the person goes after the ones you care for. Flashes of Lea’s face thundered in Randy’s head and he let the cigarette in his hands burn to ash. Next the trash in the dumpster across from them burst into flames.

After a moment, Spencer and his mom ran outside and started to put the fire out. Spencer turned and looked at Randy, looking at the pack of cigarettes in his hand. “Why don’t you watch where you’re smoking!” he yelled out toward him.

Randy smiled and was half tempted to light Spencer’s shoes on fire. This sophomore was going to learn his lesson in keeping his mouth shut, once Randy cooled off. Just as Ryan started half lecturing him, and half insulting him, Brook walked out of the drug store down the street. It was hard not to miss the tall, leggy brunette with her brown leather skirt and lacey top.

“Ya know what?” Randy said, interrupting his brother. “You go have a great night with your girlfriend while I go enjoy myself with a woman, how they’re meant to be enjoyed,” Randy said as he peeled himself off the wall and started over.

Ryan reached out and grabbed Randy with all his strength and stopped him. “You are way too out of control right now to be around a NORMAL person, why don’t you take your own advice?”

Randy gave his brother a fierce look, looking down at his shoes, letting them lightly heat up, and then back to his face. If Randy was ever going to get in an argument with his brother, it was best to be in public, because his brother was too much of a wuss to really do something about it unless they were in closed doors. “You really want to go there?” Randy threatened.

Randy let his anger burn through his body, up his arms. Ryan still held on standing his ground, and Randy had to stop himself from smiling as smoke started coming out from under Ryan’s grasp. The smell of burning flesh caught the air, causing him to let go.

Randy walked off with a smile, tempted to turn back and watch his brother rip off his shoes when he tried to walk due to the fact Randy had made them melt partially into the cement.

Randy walked up to Brook who was just getting off her cell phone. She smiled a mean smile and turned to him. “Ya know,” she started, “isn’t it the girls job to get the guy all—” she looked him up and down, “—heated up, only to make him take a long cold shower afterwards?” She slowly started to walk toward Donna’s.

He smiled, amused, keeping up with her pace.

“So why then was I the one to take an ice cold shower in your guest house? Thought I knew what to expect from you, guess I was wrong.”

“I had a family emergency, but tonight that’s not going to happen,” he told her.

“Well actually, me and Donna are going to a party tonight with these guys we’ve met,” she bragged.

He laughed, stepping in front of her. “The only parties worth going to in East Applegate are the ones that I put on.”

“Actually,” she walked around him, causing him to follow her, “this party is in West Applegate.”

“Well I hope you enjoy driving trucks through the mud. That’s pretty much the only thing worth doing there,” he told her coldly now.

“Ha! Is this about that whole football rivalry thing?” She said it as if it was the most pathetic excuse she’d ever heard.

“This has nothing to do with sports, because ever since I started high school they’ve never won at anything that involves movement.”

“That’s a pretty big ego for someone that told me they quit the team because it was pointless,” she taunted.

“Well, when you’re done with your snack, call me, and if I haven’t made plans I’ll give you a real meal you’ll never forget,” he told her as he turned away.

“And what would I be filled up on, a boy’s ego, or a man’s reality?” she called back.

As he walked back toward the diner again, a giant flame burst out of the trash just as Spencer and the rest of the diner employees had started heading back in. He was in a rotten mood, and certain he was going to call Kelly the senior tonight. He’d be too busy to even think about Brook.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna put the skirt Brook had sewn for her on and looked at herself in the mirror.

Brook walked inside and ran up to Donna. “Ah, you look so hot!”

“I don’t know.”

“Donna, you are going to have so much fun tonight! Now come on let me straighten your hair.”

“My hair?” Donna imagined Brook straightening her hair with her hot flat iron and being shocked by electricity after a couple of moments. Wasn’t that what Donna was turning into? She knew it was something like that. Especially after seeing the electricity go right from the phone before she even grabbed it and into her hands. Putting that together with the man who went through her that was electrocuted, she knew whatever she was, she was dangerous.

“You didn’t think you were going to wear a hot one of a kind Brook Arthur without having your hair done, did you?”

“Brook, really, thank you for this, but when I’m here it’s best that I just stay concentrated on gymnastics,” Donna began shyly, looking at the ground. The city is where I can be anyone I want to be and have fun. This place is a place of boundaries.”

“Donna, whoever taught you that lied! Whether it’s the Applegate’s spoiled little boys, or that loathsome cheerleader Molly or Lynn, what ever her name is. Or if it’s the people who have been inhabiting this place for like a hundred years and have never stepped foot anywhere else. Or your ex-friends, who clearly were not your real friends to begin with. It’s all a lie they’ve made up to convince themselves they have a meaningful life. The only real boundaries are the ones you’ve made for yourself. Now you can sit here and just be what they want you to be, or you can run wild and be free. Make your own rules, and learn what it’s like to have fun and be happy anywhere you go.”

Donna looked at her friend who clearly was the only person left who believed in her. How could she say no after that speech? Donna would have to go. Just this one night. Knowing Brook, if she didn’t, she’d bring the party here, and Donna couldn’t do that. She listened to the rain as it began again outside and knew she could do this if she’d just be super careful. But would she really have fun?

 

  • * *

 

Rebecca

 

Rebecca waited anxiously for Paul. He’d told her he was going to stop by tonight. She’d been so anxious and nervous, she barely knew what to do with herself. Last week Mrs. Smith had asked if Rebecca would help math tutor, because during finals everyone wanted to be tutored for extra credit. Today the freshman Rebecca had been helping had to leave early, so she stayed at the school and waited for it to stop raining before she left for home.

Now she’d changed into a white long sleeve shirt and jeans. She’d been researching everyday people with powers and strange abilities. She read a lot about scientific research in telekinesis, or moving things with your mind, some really ridiculous things about scientists mixing animal DNA with human DNA, but she suspected that was a hoax, and tons of sites on witchcraft came up. Right when she thought she’d really found something about a boy who could control electricity or lightning, it turned out the entire website was about a book a Floridan woman was getting ready to write.

She’d found legends of Egyptian goddesses who could supposedly shoot out lightning, kind of like Zeus the Greek god, but that was a myth. It didn’t mean it could actually be real. Then there were a bunch of people in Austria and China claiming they’d seen children start fires with their minds. All in all, it was probably loads of crap. It had been almost a month since the car crash had happened and she still had blurred answers.

She knew Paul had hacked into the beginning of a major government secret when trying to research a bunch of mysterious deaths that had happened over the past seventeen years. She believed him that people would probably try to hurt her if they knew what she had seen. He thought everything started with the government, but could she really believe that? She’d never believed all those books about the government really cloning people and blah, blah, blah. If they had really started doing all that, why would they keep it a secret? I feel crazy thinking about this. This is all crazy! There has to be a feasible explanation.

How could there ever be?

All Paul had were hunches and bits and pieces of clues. He told her he thought most people like Donna were her age, but he hadn’t told her why he thought that. He’d shown her weird data he’d found on a project called Biomax. Most of it even she had trouble understanding. She felt like there was still so much he was holding back from her. Yet she trusted him, and maybe she wasn’t really pressing the issue, because whenever she tried, she found herself afraid. Was she so much of a coward, so weak, that she’d look past truths so everything would make sense again? Maybe that’s how these people like Donna were keeping their secrets.

There was a knock at the door. She looked out the rainy window and saw Paul in a yellow rain coat. She unset the alarm and let him in with a giggle. He looked so funny.

“Hey,” he half smiled, looking more serious.

“Come in.”

He took his coat off and walked in. He had a laptop case covered with a garbage bag to protect it from the rain. She turned the kitchen lights on and they both sat down.

“Are you thirsty?” she asked him.

“Ah, no, thank you,” he said, fixing his glasses.

“Ok, well, tell me what’s going on now?” she asked him, getting to the point.

Paul looked really tired to her. His eyes were baggy and his skin looked pale. He pulled out a piece of paper, placed in between his laptop, and a pen from his ear, and started writing while he was speaking.

“I just wanted to tell you about the math class I’m taking,” he told her as he held up the paper so she could read it. It read in large letters: I found a bug in my car!

That’s when Rebecca thought her heart was going to stop. Fear had become a host which had taken over her body. Paul looked afraid too, like he hadn’t slept in days. Rebecca’s heart started beating, and she struggled to digest this. She felt as if her heart had turned to ice, she mouthed the word “bug,” without actually saying it and he nodded.

He started writing again and showed it: Your house could be bugged too; we can’t talk about this until I’ve checked.

Her heart began beating faster and she felt herself shake. Could someone have come in her house and bugged it? If so, what would they do next? She closed her eyes and wished this were a nightmare. Then she opened her eyes and pinched herself hard. She felt the pain and knew it was real.

How can we know? she wrote him.

He pulled something out of the garbage bag he’d brought. His graphing calculator. He’d broken it apart and wired it into a cell phone. On the side of it he’d attached what looked like a piece from a metal detector. She nodded, desperately hoping he was truly as brilliant at building all this stuff as he appeared to be. It was like the day of the accident all over again.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

It was 9:30 at night, and Donna didn’t know where Brook was taking her in her old Mustang. All she knew was they were heading west and they’d been driving for twenty minutes. Soon they’d be out of East Applegate. The city was about five or six hours away and she couldn’t believe they were going all the way there just to meet some guys. Though with Brook you never knew; she was the queen of adventure and travel.

The car stopped outside Jetties, a bar in West Applegate. Donna and her dad had stopped there on the way home before. It was a place where a lot of teens hung out.

“Why are we stopping here?” Donna asked, afraid to hear the answer.

Brook smiled at her while she smeared her ruby red lipstick on.

“The guys you met were from West Applegate, and they want to come here?”

“You’ve got it,” Brook teased.

“Brook, this is nice, really, but West Applegate and East Applegate hate each other, and this is like their main haven,” Donna told her.

“Donna, do you even go to these stupid sporting events?” Brook argued.

“Um, well, not all the time, but—”

“Well then what does it matter?” Brook interrupted. “It’s not like you’re a cheerleader or anything. Besides, in two years none of this high school bull will even matter. Trust me, if your town’s not showing you a good time, then let’s see how this one does. If you don’t have fun after a half an hour, we will leave.”

Donna panicked, trying to think of another excuse, but knowing Brook, she would find a way around whatever Donna came up with. In middle school, if you stepped foot in West Applegate you’d get taped to their flag pole or something. Even though she was a nobody at school, if anyone heard about this she’d go from low to lower. Ignored to picked on. This can’t be happening!

Brook clearly felt she had won the argument, and right as Donna went to speak, she got out of the car. Donna was horrified as they walked up to the door and the bouncer asked for their ID’s. He checked them, letting Brook go through and marking Donna’s right hand with a big X in permanent marker. Great …

Brook, still holding Donna’s hand, dragged her through, already starting to dance to the music. It was some mix of rap and country. Donna recognized both songs but never imagined they could be played together. Brook dragged her right to the middle of the dance floor and started dancing. Donna could barely move, feeling very out of place. In New York, she could dance until she dropped with Brook, but here she was Donna Young from East Applegate in West Applegate, too close to home and in dangerous territory.

Donna saw two girls she recognized as West Applegate’s cheerleaders from football games point at her. Both towns were small, and it was hard to miss someone. To make matters even worse, a group of guys Brook seemed to know came over. One went right to Brook and gave her a hug. Donna recognized the guys; they were West Applegate’s football players.

“Hey, boys,” Brook started, hugging each one. “This is my girl Donna.”

Donna smiled shyly, nervous.

“Where do I know you from?” one of them asked her.

“She goes to East Applegate!” One of the cheerleaders from before said over the loud music, walking up to them all.

The whole group eyed each other and then eyed Donna.

“Aren’t you a cheerleader?” the girl probed Donna.

Brook laughed; this to her seemed hilarious, while Donna stood feeling as if she was in the sixth grade again, where bullying was just as typical as county music.

“No, I’m on the gymnastic team,” she said shyly.

Two other cheerleaders joined their group. “No way, they have a gymnastic team? That’s not fair!” the girl wined to her friend.

“So you’re not in any other sports?” one of the guys asked Donna. “You look pretty athletic.”

“Wow, what is this, kindergarten? She’s not in any other sports, hates her school, and I brought her here to have a good time. Something you,” Brook pointed to the first guy that had hugged her, “insured me we’d have.”

“Yeah, I bet he did,” one of the girls whispered to another.

“Well,” the original cheerleader started, “you’re not friends with that Lynn girl, are you?” she asked Donna, still deciding if Donna was cool enough to hang with them.

“No, not at all,” Donna told them. That answer seemed to slip off her tongue before she fully thought it through.

“Fine, we’ll see,” the girl snapped.

Just then a faster song started to play, causing their group to separate and start dancing. Brook grabbed Donna’s hand and started dancing too. She smiled, bringing Donna closer. “Come on, just let go. It’s not like anyone here knows you or goes to your school,” she whispered.

Donna started to move a little to the song so she didn’t look like a complete idiot. Brook had a point. Donna wasn’t known as the former fat, loser gymnast here. She didn’t have ex-best friends here who looked at her like she was the plague. There was no nosy townspeople who gossiped about Donna’s father’s reputation and downfall. Here in this moment, she was in a place that looked exactly like her town, but she was free. She had passed the popular girl’s test, or whatever that was before, and this wasn’t middle school. No one was going to bully her around.

So she danced a little, and by the second song she was dancing a little less awkwardly. She started to feel herself loosen up, and Brook handed Donna the margarita one of the guys had brought to her while they were dancing, letting her drink some. Donna drank very little, knowing alcohol dehydrated people, and that was the worst possible thing she’d need right now. No, she was beginning to have a little bit of fun all on her own.

Donna noticed one of the jocks from earlier eyeing her, and it wasn’t just any jock, it was Cody Lighter. Cody Lighter was West Applegate’s version of Ryan or Randy. He’d been on every major varsity sports team that rivaled her school. His name was always being called on the sports intercom, and he’d made the paper a couple times. He’d almost won against her school in football, but Randy had taken him down.

Donna smiled briefly, her nervousness reaching an all time high. If her school knew she was hanging with him she’d be lunch meat, but in that moment his bright green eyes seemed to make her heart beat faster. Up close, he is really handsome … Oh gosh he’s still looking at me. Donna felt herself blush, and hoped no one could tell.

The next song was one of her favorites and she felt herself finally let go as if she were in the city again. The three cheerleaders from before joined her and Brook, and all the girls made a circle together.

 

  • * *

 

Rebecca

 

After two hours, Paul had searched every inch of Rebecca’s house she could think of. They’d pretended to talk about school, but finally now they both took a breath of relief.

“You’re okay,” he said with a shy smile.

“Thank God,” she mouthed in a whisper.

“Where’s your laptop?” he asked her next.

She brought him over to it, and he took a USB cable and hooked it from his laptop to hers. “I’m copying my hard drive to yours,” he told her as he typed in passwords. “It should take about two hours, everything’s coded, but just in case something happens, you’ll have everything,” he said to her slowly, looking at the ground.

Rebecca felt like her goose bumps had become tiny glass spikes that were seeping through her body. “Something else happened to you?” she asked, reading his face.

“I hacked all the way in. I know—” he fixed his glasses “—everything, and I think they know … ” As he kept on talking, Rebecca only heard half of what he was saying. She felt afraid again and helpless all at once. His words seemed to blur into each other, yet she felt she was finally starting to understand. Tears fell from her eyes, and she turned away, trying to hide them.

“I, I’m so sorry,” Paul began nervously. “I’m sorry about all of this.”

“No,” she interrupted him. “Please, I’m glad you’ve trusted me. You saved me that night. I just don’t want anything to happen to you.” More tears were coming now, and she felt Paul’s hands around hers, and she wished they’d stay like that forever. He moved away from her slowly, his lips close to hers.

“Rebecca, there’s something I have to tell you,” he said in a low voice.

At that instant, being so close to him, all Rebecca wanted him to do was kiss her. She looked into his eyes, and as if he read her mind, he moved in slowly and nervously, and their lips touched.

She closed her eyes and they kissed. She had never been kissed before ever. She had dreamt about Spencer kissing her at school millions of times, but this was much more perfect. Rebecca knew she’d never forget this moment. They kissed again, and she felt herself melt into Paul’s arms.

 

  • * *

 

Ms. Klingalsmith

 

Spencer’s mother, Rachel Klingalsmith, drove up to the Applegate mansion. The man at the gate made a call, and after a few minutes he lifted the gate, letting her car come closer. Just being at the mansion made her feel like she was in high school again. As if her secret lover was going to bring her to the guesthouse, where they could be alone in seclusion.

She hated this place. After everything that had happened … Even after he’d helped them stay safe for the last couple of years, she still hated him. She stepped out of her car, walking up to the door, where before she even knocked, the same maid that had worked there seventeen years ago opened the door. She had the same disapproving look on her face at seeing Rachel as if she were still a teenage girl, but Rachel was a woman now. She held her face high, giving the woman no power.

“Mr. Applegate will see you in the library,” the maid told her.

Miss Klingalsmith walked right in without giving the maid another look. She headed up the enormous staircase, remembering the place the best she could. She opened the large door, not bothering to knock, as the maid followed behind her.

“Miss Klingalsmith,” she announced.

Mr. Applegate nodded and gestured for the maid to leave, leaving him and Rachel alone in the oversized library with a tall ceiling and intricate tapestries. This room, as well as his entire home, was out of place in this small town. The darkness made it a little easier for her to stand her ground.

“Being in here with you brings back fond memories, Rachel,” Mr. Applegate hissed with his charming voice.

“Fond isn’t the word I’d quite use,” she stated without emotion.

He looked about twenty pounds heavier than he used to be, his face smooth as if he’d just gotten a cosmetic lift. He laughed, mocking her. “So tell me, to what do I owe the pleasure this time?” he asked her, eyes now on his papers as if she wasn’t the least bit important.

“I’ve come because I want YOUR son to be free,” she told him sternly.

“It’s amazing how you interchange the words MY and YOUR when it’s convenient.” He stood up and walked over to her. Even being a few feet away from him made her feel uncomfortable, and she did her best to hide it from him. “Wasn’t the reason you and the boy needed to be put in hiding due to YOUR poor judgment in men?” he taunted her coldly.

“My judgment in men has been foolish beginning with my first,” she hissed.

He laughed with his heartless eyes, taking another step toward her.

“Touché, Miss Klingalsmith,” he walked past her toward the bookshelf as if she wasn’t there. “The thing is,” he called back, loving the sound of his own voice, “I’ve more than paid my bill. Besides the finances that you let slip from your fingers, I’ve gone out of my way to erase all your records, making this a safe home for you. The way I see it, we’re more than even and the next favor is going to cost you.”

“Whatever the cost, I’ll pay it,” she told him, turning to face him again with all the strength she could muster.

“Big words for someone with no money.” He was enjoying this. “What is it exactly that you want me to do?”

“I want the whole threat taken care of.”

“You want me to ‘take care of a branch of America’s remaining mafia?” He walked toward her. “How do you suppose I do such a thing?”

“I know exactly what you’re capable of, Richard,” she barked. How could she ever have believed the lies of such a monster? He could have taken care of this months ago, but he’d chosen to do the least possible.

“Do you now? Well.” He smiled, taking a step closer, making himself only inches away from her. “If you’re willing to pay the price.” He stroked her cheek with his left hand; she tuned her face away from him. “Then we have a deal. You will never have to worry your pretty little face again,” he went on, getting even closer.

She faced him, looking into his eyes, understanding what she was going to have to do …

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna felt the warmth inside her from the sip of alcohol she consumed as she danced, knowing she’d have to run extra tomorrow morning for even pretending to drink more of it. Every song they played was a mix, probably made by a teen her age, but the beats worked. Cody had seemed to get closer and closer, and she tried her best to keep from looking into his green eyes.

She danced as she felt her body get hot, and her hands started to feel like they were falling asleep. All of a sudden, she remembered, as she felt the bouncing molecules spread down her body, what she was, or at least what she wasn’t, and that was normal. As she moved away from the crowd toward the bathroom, all her worries and fears came rushing back to her. She nearly panicked at the line for the bathroom, which lead to just one stall. She’d never get in there before she turned. She walked up to the bar and pushed her way to the front, calling out to the one bartender that she’d like a glass of water. He barely even looked at her, still getting drinks for the others.

She panicked, feeling her body about to change, trying to will it not to, but she couldn’t control it. She asked him again, and still there was no sign of him getting it for her. She looked toward the door, about to make a run for it when …

“Hey, Joe, the lady needs a bottled water!” Cody yelled behind her.

The three hundred pound man rolled his eyes and grabbed a bottled water out of the ice chest and threw it over. Cody caught it perfectly and handed it to Donna. Just touching the cold water made some of her heat dissolve. Cody yelled to the man to put it on his tab as Donna opened it and drank the whole thing in two gulps, letting the water return her skin to feeling normal.

“If you don’t order something that costs money, big Joe won’t move a muscle,” he whispered to her.

“Thank you,” she told him, taking the last drop from the bottle.

“You sure are thirsty, huh?” Cody commented.

“Yeah, um, I get dehydrated easily. Probably shouldn’t have had some of that margarita,” she said, nervous from his presence.

He laughed. “You mean the three sips you took? You don’t drink much do you?” he teased her.

She smiled. “Not really.”

“A good girl, ha!” he continued.

“I guess.” She felt herself blushing and hoped it wouldn’t be obvious.

“That’s kind of sexy,” he told with a flirting smile.

Donna now was blushing outrageously, not knowing how to respond. She couldn’t believe she was having this conversation with Cody Lighter.

“I bet whatever jock your dating at you’re high school would be very jealous of you being here right now.”

“Me? Not really,” she said shyly.

“What, you’ve got to be one of the most beautiful girls from East Applegate I’ve ever seen.”

“Um,” her heart racing now. “Thanks.”

“Is that an ‘I’ll dance with you to the next song’ thanks? Or an ‘I’m not interested but thanks anyway’ thanks?” he asked, still flirting in a low voice.

She smiled nervously, trying to think of a cool thing to say next. Cody was gorgeous, not like Ryan, or Peter whom she had dated in the city. He was taller than her, with tan skin from the outdoors. He had blond hair and green eyes. He looked like a surfer, but spoke with a country-like accent, which showed he was clearly born and raised here.

“Dancing sounds great right now,” she said, trying to sound cool. He smiled and took her hand gently to lead her back to the middle of the dance floor.

 

 

Chapter Six

 

It was Thanksgiving Day, and school was off. Donna still got up early and went for her run, barely making eye contact with Ryan. Even with how weird, and small, and practically nonexistent their friendship was, dancing all night last week with his football, baseball, and track rival felt like some sort of a betrayal. Worst of all, Cody and all the rest of that group were meeting her and Brook tomorrow night. Brook had put Donna on the spot, forcing her to say yes to Cody when he smoothly invited them. It would be Brook’s last week before she went back to the city.

She and Ryan stopped for water, and he barely even spoke to her this time. Could he know? Donna wondered. Did the whole school know? Then she remembered today was Thanksgiving, and after going to both her grandparents houses, she and her dad were going over to the Applegate’s. They did every year during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Mr. Applegate’s birthday. He and her dad were best friends growing up.

Ryan was probably getting ready for a night with his brother, ignoring her as usual. In fact, he and his brother usually only stayed half the time, or, even worse, he would bring Lynn over like he had last year. That was when he and Lynn had first started getting serious. Before then, like his brother, he had just dated around. Even as a freshman, Ryan had dated a few senior girls. There never seemed to be a limit to the girls Ryan could date if he wanted to.

Donna half smiled, trying to make their exchange as less awkward as possible and took a long drink, as Ryan started on his separate way. Since no one was going to be at school, she figured she’d run over to the gym and practice gymnastics by herself.

When Donna got to the gym, she turned on the lights, and pulled the large beam out to the middle of the room. She was going to try some new things. She was just about dehydrated enough to feel herself start to turn a little and wanted to see if she could control it somehow.

She started off with her first set of poses and a twist, going faster than normal, pretending she was listening to the music she had listened to at Jetties. She felt that tingly falling asleep feeling and touched her hands to the cold water bottle she had just filled from the school fountain, which she had placed on the end of the beam.

It relieved her a bit, but didn’t stop her from turning completely. She jumped, doing a back handspring back tuck twice in a row without a problem. She was feeling her body get lighter and faster as if part of her was turned into electricity on the inside, but not enough to show on the outside. She felt lighter and more alive, as if connected to the energy she could sense through the walls and lights.

She kept going, feeling lighter and lighter and more complete as she did the routine. She kept touching the bottle every time before she felt her body’s electric change try to come on completely.

“Holy crap! When you said you were a gymnast, you should have said an Olympic champion,” she heard a voice call to her.

Panic took Donna over, and she grabbed her water, recognizing the voice, as she took a long drink before she turned around. “Hey,” Donna started, turning around and facing Brook.

“I figured this is where I’d find you!”

Donna smiled, trying not to look too startled.

“Yeah, it’s a site isn’t it?” Donna said, referring to the old gym.

“It’s something,” Brook said looking around the room. The walls were gray and dirty and the mats were barely cushioned.

Where they practiced gymnastics was actually the old gym used by her parents. Mr. Applegate had donated money to build a brand new gym years ago, but that one was used by the more popular sports teams, like basketball, and for cheerleading practice.

“You though, you were incredible.”

Donna smiled shyly, getting off the beam.

“Really, you were great. I had no idea my skinny gymnast was so spry. Anyway,” Brook jumped up on the beam to sit on it, “I was wondering what’s going down for Thanksgiving? My least favorite holiday,” she added.

“Well,” Donna sipped more water. “First I go to my grandparents’ house on my mom’s side; they have a morning thing. Then I go to my grandmother’s on my dad’s side for about a half an hour before she leaves to eat at her friend’s house, and lastly we go to the Applegate’s for a big, awkward dinner.”

“The Applegate’s, as in Randy Applegate’s house? He didn’t act like he knew you very well.”

That’s not a surprise … Donna thought. “Yeah, well, he and my dad are like best friends,” Donna told her.

“Wow, um. I guess opposites do attract.”

“Yeah, Mr. Applegate is my godfather and vice versa.”

“Weird,” Brook pondered. “So what’s the deal with you, Ryan, and Randy?” she asked.

“Well … ” Donna decided to sum it up. “Ryan and I were friends as kids. Randy was older and picked on us. Ryan grew up and got cool, I grew up and got fat, and we stopped being friends. He’ll talk to me now, but only if no ones around.”

“Sounds like he’s a jerk.”

“No, I mean, he is really rich, and me and my dad kept leaving for the city. And all our money problems … I guess it’s only natural—”

“Oh, stop covering for him,” Brook interrupted her.

Donna bit her lip. Yeah, maybe she was covering for him. She did that sometimes; when Spencer used to start his Ryan and Randy rants, she’d tell him to stop. As if she and Ryan were still really great friends. Not that he ever did that for her with Lynn …

“You are much better off with that Cody; he’s a nice blond haired, blue eyed piece of meat.”

Donna blushed just thinking about Cody. Could he really have said those things to her and danced with her the entire night? “He had green eyes, actually,” Donna said shyly, blushing more.

“Oh, my gosh! My skinny gymnast has a crush!” Brook started.

Oh gosh … Donna thought. I’m never going to hear the end of this. Donna and Brook giggled, and Donna once again felt completely normal and loved as a true friend. She savored the moment, knowing soon she would be living without Brook here. She didn’t want to think about it.

 

  • * *

 

Spencer

 

Spencer sat in his room thinking about Donna and Rebecca. They’d been his two best friends in East Applegate, and now he had no one. Every minute since the accident he dreamed about different scenarios. He’d dreamt that Donna had been hit by the car and died. He’d dreamt she was hit and put in the hospital. That she’d gone into a coma, and when he went to visit her she turned into that thing in front of him. He’d dreamt Donna was an alien, which was his number one theory. In this dream, she came and abducted him and Rebecca. He dreamt that he, Rebecca, and Donna all turned into those things. He dreamt last night that he had never moved away from his old middle school in Florida. That he was visiting his mom’s old town. That he was with his friends and a boat of hot girls, and they saw Donna and Rebecca and started hitting on them both. That had been the weirdest dream yet.

He been talking to Collin, the only friend he thought it was still safe to call, every day this month. He used to talk to him once a month but now he had no one else but his coworkers to talk to, and they were all his mom’s age. He wished someone who looked like Donna’s new friend would take a job at the diner, but then this was East Applegate. Good things only happened to people who were cool enough to hang with Ryan and Randy Applegate.

He missed his friends, even Donna. What could she be? Paul and Rebecca were talking about others like her; was this some kind of alien invasion or what? A part of him felt horrible; that look in her eyes when he told her they couldn’t be friends any more. He’d done it so he and his mom could stay safe, but that look was haunting him.

“Spencer, you have to be there at 4:00 and it’s 3:45. Come on!” his mom ordered.

This was their tradition. His mom worked every holiday and then the next day they’d celebrate it together. Which meant he wouldn’t eat turkey and stuffing until tomorrow, and he had to work with his mom tonight. Why have I taken this job again? Oh ya … to distract you from having to live with yourself.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna’s dad and her grandmother sat in her dusty living room and talked. Their conversations were always the same. He’d tell her of the new evidence concerning her brother and she’d give him hope that he was close to finding him. She was the only one left who did. Donna knew the odds were that her brother was dead. He’d been missing for eleven years now. Everyone told her dad that after three years the odds were pretty much very, very slim to none. Yet her dad never would give up. She suspected he’d still be hiring new PI’s when she was in her thirties. Donna barely remembered her brother now, and hated to look at pictures because it made her dad very emotional.

She excused herself to the bathroom, knowing she’d only have five minutes to go into her grandmother’s messy guestroom where she kept old boxes of her deceased husband’s things in the closet and under the bed.

Donna locked the door behind her but didn’t turn the light on in fear her father would get upset knowing she was looking through his father’s old stuff. She knelt down on her knees and pulled the first box from under the bed. It was labeled “Wedding Photos.” She pushed it to the side and found another box labeled “Pictures.”

She peeled the tape off the side quietly and opened it. Thrown in the box were all kinds of pictures piled in a disorderly fashion. She looked through them. There were pictures of her dad as a toddler, and pictures of him and Mr. Applegate as teenagers graduating. Looking at the images she realized just how odd her father and Mr. Applegate were as friends. Her dad had been tall and handsome. The eighties version of a jock, she supposed. Richard Applegate had Ryan’s face, only he had been thinner and less strong looking. He was shorter, which made her wonder where Ryan got his height from. Must have been from his mother’s side, she guessed. Mr. Applegate had worn very large glasses.

She found another graduation photo with her father, Mr. Applegate, and her mom. She was so beautiful and looked so happy. She took that picture and stuffed it in her jean’s pocket, then closed the box. Pictures weren’t going to answer her questions.

She pushed it aside, and opened a box that wasn’t labeled. Inside was another dusty newspaper clipping, the same as she’d read before. She looked past it at the other stuff in the box. There were invitations to a magic show her grandfather must have made when he was young. There was also an old black and white picture of her grandfather as a boy, wearing a cape and holding a rabbit over a hat. She took these pictures and put them in her pocket as well, and then saw the old, dusty hat he had worn, meant for a child. She picked it up, shaking the dust off and examined it. It seemed to be a real hat, no holes in the bottom or anything for him to hide the rabbit in. So what was the trick? Was she really willing to believe that her grandfather was a real magician and she was some lightning girl circus act? Must have been a different hat in the picture … Must have.

Hearing her dad coming, she quickly folded the small hat before putting it in her other pocket; her jean’s pockets now looked overfull and bulky. She pushed the boxes back under the bed and darted toward the bathroom.

She’d just found more questions instead of answers, but it would have to be enough for now.

 

  • * *

 

Three long hours later, Donna and her dad walked into the Applegate mansion. Daisy, the housekeeper, opened the door and gave Donna a hug. She was so nice to Donna, telling her how much she looked like her mother and how she was growing into a lady. She’d ask Donna’s dad every time she saw him to stay out of trouble, even though he was grown up now. He and Mr. Applegate must have been mischievous boys growing up. Looking at her dad, she couldn’t imagine him harming a fly, but then she couldn’t imagine he had been the most popular jock in school either.

Mom, David, the money problems … It’s humbled Dad, changed him.

Donna walked around the stairs into the large, spooky dinning room. She felt very out of place, she always had here. Randy was sitting down already helping himself to the food. Ryan was next to him, whispering something to Lynn. She rolled her eyes at Donna’s attire. Not that Donna cared anymore, sitting down shyly at the table after saying hi to Mr. Applegate, who was at the head of the table. The hope that one day Lynn would want to be friends with Donna or at least respect her enough not to ridicule her was gone. The only thing Donna wanted now was for everything to go back to normal. If somehow Spencer and Rebecca never were at the accident, if they hadn’t seen me …

Donna was usually shy around Lynn and the popular kids, but after this month of bizarreness, she had much more to worry about than if she would somehow miraculously become cool.

“Donna, I really love your outfit,” Lynn began, saying it in a nice voice, but Donna knew better.

“You too,” Donna said back.

Her dad sat down last. He was talking to Daisy about something that had him laughing. Seeing her dad happy made Donna smile.

“How were the in-laws?” Mr. Applegate asked her dad in his usual tone.

“The usual. Hate to see me, love to see Donna. Nothing really changes in twenty years.”

Donna smiled again shyly, not touching her soup, which she suspected was made of pure cream. Dinner went on like it always did. Donna’s father and Mr. Applegate talked while everyone else was pretty quiet.

“You know, your youngest godson beat your football record, Doug!” Mr. Applegate went on.

“I heard. Congratulations, Ryan. You’re making our town’s sprit very strong.”

“Thanks, Mr. Young,” Ryan commented through bits of turkey.

“I heard your Donna’s getting very good at gymnastics. It’s a shame the team isn’t in the spotlight as it used to be.”

“It’s fun,” Donna said nervously.

“Your coach, that Mrs. Longsmith, has told me great things about you.”

Donna felt her cheeks turn red and saw Lynn’s expression of disgust.

“We’re going to sponsor the winner of the tournament, not only for travel, but for room and board as well. That could be you, young lady,” Mr. Applegate told her.

Donna’s heart started beating and she felt a burst of excitement. Sponsor for room and board? That meant if she won she really would be free. With the new tricks her turning into electricity had allowed her to do … Her mind spun. Could the thing that made her lose Spencer and Rebecca end up helping her with her dream of leaving here?

“That’s so great that you’re doing that, Mr. Applegate,” her words slipped out.

“Well, if your grandfather hadn’t helped me, then I never would have been the man I am now. It would be an honor to return the favor one day.” Just then the mood in the room went from up to down. She could see her father’s look of discomfort and even annoyance. Randy looked mad too, though she didn’t know why, and Ryan and Lynn were silent.

“Excuse me, I’m going to use the restroom,” her dad said, getting up from the table.

“Thanks for sharing,” she heard Lynn whisper.

“Mr. Applegate?” Donna asked as Ryan and Randy started talking about something.

“Yes, dear?”

“My grandfather,” she paused, nervous, but glad Ryan and them weren’t paying attention. “Did he do magic tricks in front of you and my dad?”

Mr. Applegate’s expression changed and he smiled. “Yes, he did. I’m surprised your dad’s told you about that. He hates to talk about your grandfather; though anyone would have been blessed to have him as a father,” he finished, sounding almost bitter. Donna felt clueless to the strange past of her father’s childhood he hated to talk about. “He was a brilliant man, making illusions seem so convincing you’d swear they were real.” He paused as if he was seeing it all before him. “It was something you could never shake yourself of.”

Those words, the way he spoke them, the way he said it … Donna felt herself shiver, and dug her nails into her fist to control herself. She found herself now sitting straight up instead of slouching as she had before. Could her grandfather have … ? Could Mr. Applegate have seen him change into … ? She had to ask, had to know. She thought carefully how to word her question.

“Did he ever—” she stopped; biting her lip so hard she thought she might start to bleed. Her dad had started walking back into the room. Mr. Applegate nodded at her, understanding her silence. Her chance was gone.

 

  • * *

 

Spencer

 

Spencer brought the old couple out their food. There were only about five people in the whole restaurant and Spencer would have been bored to death if he weren’t serving Brook, Donna’s friend and potential alien. Spencer thought she was the hottest girl besides Lynn, and Donna, who’d gotten hot this year in a weird way, he’d ever seen in this town.

“Do you need anything else?”

“I’m fine,” she said, smiling at him .“You’re—,” she started to speak, right as he was about to turn away. “You’re related to the Applegate’s, aren’t you?”

Spencer turned around, stunned. “Me?”

“Yeah,” she stated causally. “Your not like a cousin or something?”

“Yeah, is this where you say, ‘you’ve been punked!’ Cause if it isn’t,” he pretended to take her plate away, “then I’m going to assume it’s something in the food. In which case I’m probably not going to be tipped out tonight,” he joked.

Brook gave him a sly nod. “I’ll take that as a no. I just thought, I don’t know. You have Randy’s younger brother’s eyes. Their same bone structure and lips.” She shrugged. “My mistake.”

Spencer smiled, disgusted but at least he had an opening. “Yeah, I guess. Only with these lips, you don’t have to worry about catching anything.”

She laughed. “Ok, a sense of humor. Yeah, I guess you couldn’t be related to the Applegate boys,” she teased him.

“Yeah, that, and I have a conscience,” he went on. He was on a roll now. He kept her laughing and for a split second, it was almost like being with Donna and Rebecca again. He felt happier than he had in this entire hell of a month.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

They ate two more courses and Donna couldn’t believe how much Ryan, Randy, Mr. Applegate, and her father were able to stuff into their mouths. Lynn stopped eating ten minutes earlier, solely eating only the foods on her plate that were bad for her, as if to show Donna she was special enough to eat anything she pleased. Donna had been healthy, drinking a nutrition shake right before this so she wouldn’t be tempted. Though either way she knew Ryan was more than enough to make a girl not think about food.

“So, Donna,” Randy started; apparently he was in as much of a bullying mood as Lynn silently was, his voice full of fearless strength and mimicry. “Heard you and your friend went to West Applegate the other night.”

Donna froze, the whole table now staring at her. Just saying the words “West Applegate” was enough to make everyone in her town who’d gone to East Applegate High at some point turn their head. Even though it had been Ryan’s great-grandfather who all four of the Applegate towns were named after, East and West Applegate had always had the best athletes of the towns. They had always silently tried to prove who was better than the other. This family was no different.

“My—” Donna felt a mixture of humiliation and embarrassment. Why did Ryan have to know this? “—friend Brook knew some people there.” She didn’t know what else to say. It wasn’t the entire truth, but it was sort of true anyway.

“Interesting,” Randy said with his usual pissed off expression.

“Your friend certainly stands out in a town like this,” Lynn said, giving Donna an eye full of hatred and satisfaction.

“Yeah, she’s the best judge of character I know,” Donna said back. She was surprised by herself that she’d actually come up with a cool comeback and had enough guts to say it. Donna didn’t look at Lynn, Ryan, or Randy the rest of the dinner, too embarrassed, and a little afraid to deal with Lynn or Randy’s wrath. After Thanksgiving break they’re going to bury me for this … Unless I win the tournament.

On the way home, Donna rewound the whole dinner in her head. Had she really defended Brook and insulted Lynn all in one untouchable comment? It was the first time she’d ever stood up to anyone since she was twelve. She wondered to herself if it was because of how the people from West Applegate had made her feel. Or if her changing into … whatever it was, was affecting her mind. Or maybe with freedom to escape from this place being in her grasp, in the back of her head she’d had the confidence of knowing she’d soon not have to deal with these people any longer. Whatever the reason, she liked it. Even if it had only lasted a moment.

 

***

 

Eight days later

 

Donna woke up and smiled; she was still in her outfit from last night when she and Brook had gone dancing with Cody and his gang again. The cheerleaders had made small conversation this time, and she’d dreamt about how different her life would have been if she’d gone to that school instead.

She saw Brook neatly folding all the clothes Donna had let her alter. Thankfully, Donna had managed to hide half of her stuff away, so she still had some of herself left to turn to. Brook’s style was great, but Donna knew she’d never have the guts to wear her new revealing wardrobe to school.

“Hey,” Brook said with a smile, seeing Donna was awake.

“Hey.”

“Have fun last night?” Brook jumped up on the bed and sat next to her.

“Yeah, it’s like some kind of parallel universe there,” Donna commented still in a daze.

“Yeah, people your age can actually be nice. Who knew?” Brook teased.

Donna wondered if she would have gone to school in West Applegate if they still would have been so nice to her. If they’d known about her grandfather, her father, and her former heavier self … Would they have looked at her the same? She pushed the thoughts away. All of that was over now, she knew without Brook she would never go back to West Applegate. Brook had given her so much.

“I’m so sad you’re leaving,” Donna started.

“Yeah, well, you’re going to win that tournament and be free of this place soon.”

“I hope so.”

“I know so,” Brook pressed on.

Donna smiled.

“I’m all packed, just wanted to wait till you woke up to say thanks for letting me crash here for a while.”

“You don’t want breakfast?”

“I drank a nice cold nutrition shake when I woke up. That’s all I need.”

“Ya know, you really helped me through some rough stuff. Thank you.”

“Just remember,” Brook stood up. “You make your own boundaries.”

Donna nodded, feeling as if she was getting advice from an older sister. She took in this moment of having a friend here, knowing that when she went to school Lynn was probably going to aim all her arrows at her. But it didn’t matter, because now Donna only had two missions: to find out what she was, and to win the tournament so she could get out of here.

 

  • * *

 

Spencer

 

Spencer walked to school while on the cell phone he’d just bought for himself with his paycheck. He was talking to Collin, who was telling him about some new girl at his old school.

“Wish I was there right now,” Spencer said as he walked toward the school doors.

“There’s this one girl visiting with legs like—” He felt something pull on his backpack, stopping him from walking inside. He turned around only to see Randy’s fist smash into his face.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Brook dropped off Donna on her way out of town. For once Donna was going to get to her class right on time. She looked up and something was going on. The entire school was in a circle laughing around the flagpole. Donna knew right away someone was duct taped to that pole and instantly felt bad for the person being bullied. She started around the crowd, not wanting anything to do with the kids laughing and gossiping, relieved in times like this to be invisible among her classmates.

Donna saw Rebecca and Paul walking up closely behind her to go around as well. So she quickly dove into the crowd, changing her mind to avoid having to walk next to them and feel uncomfortable. She’d just have to push her way through to the doors. The heat and sweat from the crowd overrode any sort of coolness that had been in the air earlier from the change of season. All the cheerleaders were laughing.

“He’s actually kind of cute,” she heard Rose say to Courtney.

Donna’s eyes fell on Lynn and Ryan laughing; she looked away from them after a minute, not wanting to look like she was staring. They looked so perfect together, it was sickening.

Next Donna’s eyes fell on the victim. Right away at her first glimpse, she felt her heart drop. It was Spencer, taped to the pole in his boxers. His face was red, his eye black, his light brown hair messy and covered in sweat. He looked horrible. Her heart started beating painfully as she looked at Spencer’s bare arms. They looked like he’d been burned or something all the way down to his hands.

She had a flash in her mind of being carried by him through the woods. “She’s getting too hot!” she heard his voice in her head screaming. Donna’s eyes started to water and the heat from the crowd was making her body get warmer and warmer. Donna looked around over the heads of the others for a teacher but saw no one outside near them. She was sure one would come, but right now she felt hot and panicked. She opened her water bottle, taking a big gulp of it, trying to calm herself down, but she couldn’t.

She started pushing her way through the crowd and saw Randy standing in front of Spencer like a guard, daring any of Spencer’s friends that would want to cut him down. She dropped her backpack to the floor, grabbing for her keys, which had a pocket knife attached to them. Of course she had a pocket knife. Her dad was a handy man, after all. She grabbed it tight in her hand, and without thinking she stepped right in front of Randy, in front of everyone …

He looked at her with his hard, cold expression. She looked at Ryan, ignoring Lynn’s glares, and saw his expression had suddenly changed too when he saw her up there.

“Something I can do for you?” Randy barked.

“Yes,” she said, feeling her face turn red and eyes water. She saw Spencer stare at her, and then her eyes returned back to his blistered arms. For a moment she found it hard to speak. “Let him go,” she said in the highest voice she could come up with, which wasn’t very high.

“Not happening.” Randy looked away from her like she didn’t exist. She took a deep breath, not moving at all, staying firmly planted right in front of Randy.

“Donna, don’t,” Spencer started in a weak voice.

She could barely hear him, all the sound in her head was being blurred, and her vision was changing. Every shape seemed to fade to blue and black, like she was in a dark room. In the darkness there were small glowing lights.

The cell phone that was at the base of the pole, left alone at Spencer’s feet was … alive. All its glowing lights seemed to be separate beings, moving together within each other like an ant pile of electricity. Not just the phone, but electronics everywhere; on her classmates, past the glass doors inside the school, the lights on the ceiling and in the walls, all alive and singing to her. She could feel them. Everything else was faded and dark and she had to strain to see. It was like she was inside a photo room.

She took a breath, finding the dark shape of Randy in front of her again, seeing the shadows around the lines of his face. “Then take me instead,” she told him, interrupting Spencer, struggling to bring herself back to normal. She was changing.

The crowd was silent now, listening to every word. All their whispers seemed to meld up back into the darkness. Randy looked at Donna and kept his same expression, his gaze now burning into her, reading her every move.

 

  • * *

 

Ryan

 

Ryan felt as if in moments things had gone from a good morning to an awful disaster. He usually got irritated with his brother’s bullying, but made an exception for Spencer Klingalsmith. He was the most annoying guy on campus, always insulting his girlfriend, and he just got on his nerves. He’d have done something about this guy years ago, but every time he saw him he was with Donna until recently.

It was all going fine, just fun and games, until Donna popped up out of nowhere and started petitioning for him to be cut from the flagpole. She looked so fragile and helpless, and all of a sudden all his friends and the student body transformed in front of his eyes into monsters surrounding her. Every muscle in his body rumbled for him to protect her.

He had to fight his mind and his body, trying to keep his expression blank and still. Then she’d said to take her instead, and he saw his brother stare at Donna as if there were a wall of flames in between them and he felt himself moving toward them.

“Randy!” he said in a voice with great meaning behind it.

Randy stayed still a second, and Ryan saw what looked like the beginning of tears in Donna’s eyes. He felt himself moving closer and growing stronger. He couldn’t ever let anything happen to her. He had to protect her at all cost. He felt his heart’s beating already beginning to transform himself, every bit of self-containment seeping away from him. His bones, his muscles, his veins all beginning to …

His brother stepped away. Time stopped and then reset itself again. His fist unclenched and he made himself relax, feeling as if a ton of weight had been lifted off his back. Donna pulled a pocket knife off her key chain and started cutting Spencer down weakly. The crowd around them now was gasping and full of surprise and excitement.

“Only you would need a GIRL to save you, Klingalsmith, only you,” Randy snickered at him before walking away with the rest of the football team behind him.

Ryan walked away too. He knew he had to. With Lynn and the cheerleaders laughing beside him. The vision of Donna looking weak stayed in his mind, burned into it forever, because he’d stood by and let Randy do his crap. Just like when she was almost killed years ago, once again it was his fault …

 

  • * *

 

Paul

 

Paul watched, Rebecca next to him, as the rest of the kids walked away into the school behind the cheerleaders and jocks like a stampede. Donna, Rebecca’s old best friend, cut Spencer free and helped him off the flagpole. It looked like they hit Spencer hard so they’d be able to strip him down and tape him up easier. They were truly monsters. Like bad children in a candy store, using what science had given them to bully others. Outside these walls, Paul didn’t want to imagine the numerous possibilities of what they did in the real world. Or what they’d be able to do in the future as full grown adults.

He’d been wrong about Donna. Or at least partially. She looked just as weak as him, even though he knew that wasn’t true. Could she really have her ability, but not be working for them? Was this a trick? No, he didn’t think so. If she had known what Randy and the others really could do, there was no way, even if she was on their team, she’d stand up to them like that.

Spencer was silent as Donna walked him over to the nearest bench and helped him sit down. Paul followed Rebecca over and opened his bag to hand Spencer his gym clothes and jacket. It wasn’t like he actually participated in gym anyway.

He watched like a third wheel as Donna and Rebecca were helping Spencer out. All their eyes were locked on each other, their care for one another unhidden. Then their moment was broken, as Donna looked at Spencer’s burns and took a step back away from him. The harmonious act from before was completely gone, and he saw Donna’s eyes close as if she was about to faint. She opened her eyes again seeming light headed, and she was crying. Then suddenly Donna was running.

During this time, the bell had rung, clearing the halls until they were all empty except for two who remained inside. Paul watched through the glass doors as Randy stood in front of his locker staring at this whole thing. He didn’t know if Randy was there to punish Spencer once more when he was alone again, or to watch Paul, or worse … Maybe he’d been assigned to take him. Maybe this was it. No doubt something was going to happen soon, and he had a bad feeling about this.

“I think she’s going to change,” Rebecca told Paul.

Paul looked back, seeing Donna run past Randy, taking a left to where he could no longer see her, and he knew now that she had to be separate from the team. If not, why would she try to hide herself?

Paul, feeling responsible, found himself walking through the door, down the hall after her. As he quickly walked past Randy, the hall felt hot for a moment, as if only by Randy it was ninety degrees. He avoided his eyes, hearing Randy begin to follow him.

He didn’t see Donna. He looked toward the girls’ restroom and saw that there was a dean standing in front of it, probably so no kids could hang out and smoke in there during first class. So where was she? Where had she gone? He heard something fall in the janitor’s closet, and he opened the door, going inside before Randy could catch up behind him.

He looked inside, but he didn’t see Donna. He saw something else. Bright light exploded out of the closet and he was forced to shut the door, trapping him inside with the being. A being that was made of live electricity, shaped like a human, or at least something standing on two feet with two arms. A man or woman he couldn’t tell. It was just as tall as him, and had taken a step back at seeing him in there with itself. It lit up the darkness of the room, and the heat from it in a small space made him feel like he was in a microwave.

He knew who it was but never imagined seeing her like this. He found himself frozen and unable to do anything but block the door. Then she started turning back. Her light began growing dimmer as she now had the shape of herself, but transparent and naked except for the running shoes on her feet. She was like a ghost. Then after another couple of seconds she was almost back to normal. He felt the knob behind him start to turn and knew it was either Randy or the dean. The handle felt hot.

Paul Cohen was going to be found in the janitor’s closet with a naked, glowing Donna Young. He grabbed the knob, panicked, and pressed his body as hard as he could against the door. He took off his shirt and threw it at her, then managed to slip his pants off. Whoever it was trying to get in was not giving up. Now Paul was almost naked himself as he kicked his clothes toward Donna, not sure how much longer he’d be able to keep them in there.

Donna looked very afraid and even ashamed as she was back to a normal girl again; a naked, normal girl that Paul was too distracted to look at. She grabbed his clothes, hurrying to put them on.

“Hide,” he whispered next, practically out of breath. “When the coast is clear, run; tell no one about this! If they catch you, they’ll kill you!” If he had warned her earlier when Rebecca had told him what she was, would she have been safe right now? Yes, he could have stopped this. All new information and realizations seemed to be running through his mind. She must have heated up when she helped Spencer. Her eyes looked so innocent and lost.

He had to make a decision. Had to decide to trust her. They may have him, but they weren’t going to get Rebecca if he could help it. He in the big picture could do nothing. He was weak, but maybe she could save them all.

Then he felt himself being pushed as the door opened. He twisted around, jumping wildly onto Randy causing them both to fall to the ground.

 

  • * *

 

Randy

 

“What the hell!” Randy yelled. He had seen Donna run off, which made him feel a flush of guilt which he pushed aside, trying his best to ignore it. Then he’d seen Paul run in what he thought was the opposite direction, toward the dean. Why, he didn’t know, but Paul was their target, and he needed to know what this guy was thinking.

He’d seen the janitors closet slam shut and a light coming from underneath the door. The kid was a coward, not ready for what Randy’s father had in mind for him. Then before Randy knew it, the kid was pushing Randy to the ground. Falling on top of him. Randy looked up, startled. Was Paul not wearing a shirt? What the …

He instinctively kicked Paul off of him, backing away to try to make sense of this, but then Paul again seemed to try to jump back toward him wildly. Like he had rabies or something. Randy didn’t give him the chance. Not knowing what else to do, he decked the nerd in the face. Was the kid crazy? Probably, but what had he been trying to do? What a freak. He felt the dean pulling him away, yelling at him, but he didn’t care. What if someone had seen Paul on top of him with only boxers on? Paul was lucky he didn’t find himself on fire.

Randy saw Rebecca and Spencer as the dean pulled him away into his office. Spencer was wearing Paul’s jacket. Had the guy given Spencer his clothes and then run to the closet to wait until the cost was clear? No, he was sure he had run past him dressed. Something weird was going on, and he knew Paul was behind it. Whatever it was, it was going to be found out.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna waited ten minutes after she heard the halls grow silent. Tears and more tears kept coming down her face as she heard more people getting hurt because of her. Spencer’s arms, and now Paul being punched … And what had he said to her? What had he meant? She felt very afraid as if each one of his words had been a monster, a monster violating her.

She checked the halls. The dean was now in his office with Randy and Paul. In Paul’s clothes, she walked down the hall quickly. The moment she’d made it past the school doors without being seen she started out in a full sprint toward home. It was four miles away but she sprinted nonetheless, as if a killer was chasing behind her.

The whole thing from when she had first turned until now was playing in her head: First the accident, all over again. Then hearing Spencer’s screams when she was burning up and he thought she might die. To today, when he was on the flagpole. She saw herself running into the closet, and Paul coming inside, seeing her turn. She’d somehow forced herself back to normal. As if she’d pushed what she was away, but it was too late. He had seen. Yet instead of screaming he had warned her. “Run, tell no one about this! If they catch you they’ll kill you!

Somehow he knew what she was even when she didn’t, his message disturbing. She took in his words and understood. It was like déjà vu, a hidden truth she’d known but forgotten, slamming all back into her again. Hearing the word KILL, she felt her life in danger as if she was in a nightmare. And she was, her life had become a nightmare she was forced to live, where everyone knew the answers but her, and she was completely out of control. Helpless …

Then Donna was home, she had run there without paying attention at all. She began to feel her body get that sleepy feeling, and knew once again she was about to change. She ran through the side door of her house. Her father was working out in the back, thank goodness, and wasn’t there to see her change. She ran upstairs as fast as she could without tripping and went straight into her bathroom. She locked the door behind her, her hands shaking. She then turned on her shower and waited the prolonged minute it took to start. Then as if she willed it, the water began to pour out.

She stepped in, not bothering to take her clothes off, and let the freezing cold water pierce through and absorb into her as it always did every time this happened; reforming her flesh and making her human once again. With her body still shaking violently, she pulled the shower curtain shut. Then she sank to the floor of the tub and let the water drain out her world.

 

 

Chapter Seven

 

Paul

 

Paul got a week of detention and almost risked getting suspended. His mother had grounded him, furious that this would affect his scholarship to M.I.T. Not that he blamed her for being so mad; he’d never gotten a detention in his life, but tonight he wanted to be with Rebecca. He had to see her, kiss her, one last time. After what happened today, he knew time was something he didn’t have much left. Even if they killed him, what he’d discovered would never be lost to the world. He’d made sure of it.

He decided to walk over to her house rather than drive, knowing about the bug on the inside of his trunk they were using to track him. It seemed like forever until he reached her house and was knocking on her bedroom window. Her parents were home now, so his trips would have to be much more discrete.

She opened the window, expecting him. She hugged him and they kissed again. Their tenth kiss so far. He counted each one, never forgetting them. Every time she kissed him or allowed him to kiss her, he thought he was dreaming. She was the most beautiful, angelic girl.

As they parted, he took off his grandfather’s silver ring and handed it to her. “This was my grandfather’s. ” He took a breath. “I want you to have it.”

She looked up at him, her greenish gold eyes shining like gems. “Paul, I can’t take this.”

“Please, I want you to have it.”

She took the ring, uncertainty in her eyes, and held his hands tight. He felt his glasses slide down his nose, and he pushed them up, less nervous than usual. “I was wrong about Donna.”

Rebecca looked down, listening to him.

“I’ve taken every precaution to make sure that you can trust her. She’s not one of them.”

“I know,” she started, looking back up at him. “I knew it today when she helped Spencer.”

He nodded. “You need to go to her. Tell her everything. She can protect you.”

“What about you?” Her voice was so gentle and caring.

He took a step back, breaking free from her grasp. It was hard for him to say this next part. So he stared into the ground. “They’re taking me tonight.”

She took a step back too, looking at him like he’d professed the apocalypse. “What are you talking about?” she asked through a shaking voice.

“I got the machine I showed you a while ago to tune into one of their cell phones. They’re coming at midnight.” The words made him tremble, and he tried to hide it from her. Inside he was very afraid, but being here with her made him feel strong.

“Then you’ll stay here; you can hide in my parents trunk when they drive to the airport next week.”

He could hear in her voice that she was crying. He walked back over and held her. “Rebecca,” he whispered, pulling her in so he could look into her eyes. “You’ve been my light since I entered this darkness. I trust you with everything, and know you’re meant to do great things.” He wiped away her tears. “I love you.” He’d rehearsed saying it to her for the past two days. He hadn’t thought he’d be able to do it, but now it had become the most important thing left to do, and he’d said it.

She pulled him back to her and kissed him. He tasted tears, not sure if they were his or hers. He pulled away, wanting to kiss her forever, to grow old and marry her like he’d dreamed, but he knew he needed to head back.

“I love you too,” she told him right as he turned to go.

He crawled out the window, her words surrounding him like armor. He pulled out his dad’s old cell phone he’d taken apart and rewired, to which he added a couple of microchips and radio antennas. “I’ve rewired one of the bugs they planted. You should be able to hear me, once I’m able to turn my own chip on.” He handed the gadget to her.

She nodded and he prayed to God, whom he hadn’t prayed to in years, that she’d be safe. That somehow Donna would know enough to stop them, and that no one else would discover what he discovered unless they’d have the protection to survive.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna was dreaming …

She was in the tree fort she and Ryan had built, hiding. She knew soon the sun would rise and she’d be safe for another day. She took a deep breath, counting backwards slowly, watching the lighting creature below search for her with only seconds left.

Then the sun started to pour out light, and the night become dawn, and she saw the creature being sucked into the lake and dissolving into the water. Donna let out a breath she’d forgotten she’d been holding. Finally, she was safe. She climbed down from tree to tree, and jumped onto the ground. She had the energy of a child and felt joy rush through her as she ran through the woods. The fall season had made the leaves turn, and they fell as Donna ran, making the air fill with orange, red, and brown confetti, dancing around her like magic.

She saw him then, Ryan as a child. He was skipping and dancing too. He looked so happy. He ran up to her, and she knelt down so she wasn’t towering over him. He laughed his goofy laugh he used to have and whispered old secrets into her ears. Then he pulled away from her and looked at her eyes, smiling. “If we race,” he teased her, “I’ll win!”

She smiled back. “I won last time,” she told him, remembering the last time they had raced when she was ten.

“That’s because I let you,” he bashfully admitted, his face turning red. He laughed childishly, and ran off, going so fast that after seconds she could barely see him. Seeing him so happy and innocent overwhelmed her, and the leaves danced around wildly. The wind blew her hair behind her and she felt it get caught on something. She looked down at her feet, seeing no shadow nearby but her own.

She turned around, bewildered and confused. Behind her was a very tall, handsome teenager about her age or maybe a little older. He had dark hair and bright blue eyes. His skin was tanner than her own, and he was in the best shape she had ever seen anyone else in. It was as if royalty were in front of her; his skin shone so bright and perfect, and when he opened his mouth slightly, his teeth were whiter than she had ever seen. She felt herself unable to turn away, as if she were looking at the sun, and it had trapped her. He was like a giant warrior angel without wings, and her body was drawn toward him like a magnet.

It was the seventeen-year-old Ryan who stood in front of her. He was in his orange and blue jogging suit listening to his music. After a minute, his expression changed and he took off his headphones and shook them. “That sucks; I thought I just charged these,” he said, tossing them aside.

“I’m sorry.” For some reason she knew it was her fault that his MP3 player had no power.

“I’ll just buy a better one,” he said casually, taking a step closer.

She nodded, staring idiotically at his chest and then back to his handsome face. Then at his muscular arms, then back to his face again, like she was examining a fine painting that was so great you could look at it a hundred times and still be unable to appreciate it all. He smiled at her, his gaze intense and strong. Then they both took a step toward one another instinctively. His hands grazed hers lightly, and her heart began to race.

“Remember the first time?” he asked her; at once she seemed to know what he was talking about before the words left his mouth.

“Yes,” she answered him. Her face was lit with her most sensual smile. She felt so alive, like the sun was burning inside her.

He leaned forward then, making her body tremble, and kissed her lightly, his lips playfully touching hers. Then he pulled away, moving toward her right ear, just like his child self had, and whispering, “Never forget. Even if it’s all mixed up, remember,” he spoke slowly, and each word he said grew more faint.

He moved his face back to hers, drawing her in. She looked into his eyes; they were blue like the water that kept saving her. Then they were kissing again, first softly, but as she wanted more he kissed her further and more intensely. She felt his hands slip under the back of her shirt. He touched her skin, then disappeared.

She opened her eyes, feeling nothing on her lips at all. She was standing alone, all her childlike energy gone. A breeze of cold air hit her, and when she looked down she was completely naked except for the running shoes Ryan had bought her, which remained tightly on. More wind came, making her feel very cold and alone.

Then in the distance, surrounded by a dark fog about twelve feet in front of her was her mother. She was young, Donna’s age, like she had been in the graduation picture. Then in front of her mom appeared her brother as a twelve-year-old boy. He was neither looking at Donna nor her mom. He just stood there stunned and motionless like a ghost. The darkness that surrounded them was like a piece of unholy night, which stopped at their feet, clashing with the day. They were very creepy. In fact, Donna felt afraid, and her instincts were telling her to get away from them, as if they weren’t her family at all but something else. Something non-human and evil.

She took a step back, wondering if the sun would burn the two alive. Their gray pallor was unsettling, along with her mother’s dreadful expression. “You’re growing inside me,” her mother said all of a sudden, in a sad, weary voice.

Donna felt confused again, like she was trying to put a puzzle together but all the pieces were missing. “I’m not inside you,” Donna answered, feeling afraid.

The thing that looked like her mother didn’t seem to hear her, she looked down and touched her stomach lightly with her left hand. “Growing inside me.”

Donna heard the sound of a dog barking from some place far away beyond the forest. She started backing up slowly away from the ghosts, feeling at any moment they would try to take her. The boy, troubled now like his mom, looked up at Donna with concerned eyes and stepped toward her. Donna felt a wave of panic. He was going to take her! She turned around toward the water and started to run

Donna woke up.

Her body completely turned into electricity and became ghost like. She felt herself fall through her bed and hit the floor underneath it. She waited completely still in her changed form, the bed covering her, realizing with the horrid revelation that Smoky was barking not at her but at her door. She felt so afraid, unsure if she could really be awake right now. She stayed underneath for a couple of minutes, feeling hot, and way too alive. Her vision had changed back to the blue and black sight, like she was in a photo developing room again. After what felt like ten minutes, she got up and reached to open the door, feeling her hand’s brightness grow dimmer and more transparent, allowing her to turn the handle.

Smoky dove out of her room in an instant, down the stairs, toward the front door where someone was knocking. Donna felt her body pulse as if her heart were her whole body again, only it was pulsing so fast and she felt so wound up and energized that she feared she might explode.

It had to be past midnight. Who would be knocking at her door right now? Donna felt herself get lighter and lighter and more electric again till she was no longer glowing transparently. She was now so bright and alive she couldn’t even make out the shape of her hands. The knocking stopped, but Smoky was still barking. The person was still out there.

The killers Paul was talking about! Donna panicked. They’ve come for me!

 

* * *

 

The Soldier

 

He walked slowly through the forest, taking his time. His older brother had been too heated up to do anything tonight. Instead the younger sibling was stuck having to be the one to bring in Paul Cohen.

He approached his house, deciding the best way would be to crawl through the window, onto the ceiling, and bag Paul before he had time to make a sound. Should be simple enough, but if the guy really was the super hacker causing them so much trouble then he might have some tricks up his sleeve.

The night was dark and starless and starting to get chilly. He walked up to the house, listening to the sounds of the wind and owls to detect any threat nearby. Then, like an animal, he crawled up the house, sticking to the walls, feeling the roughness of the bricks and dirt underneath his hands. The air tasted cool and farm-like, even though there were barely any farms left here. He pressed his ear against the wall and listened, hearing the sounds of radios underneath the house being turned off.

He pulled open the locked window and crawled up Paul’s bedroom wall onto his ceiling. The room was small and childlike with blue striped walls and an outer-space decorated ceiling. The stars were sticking to his hands as he climbed over the bed and saw what looked like a body sleeping. He looked down at the body and knew something was wrong; there was not the slightest bit of movement, and he couldn’t hear any breathing.

He flipped down, onto his feet, next to Paul’s bed, doing his best not to make a sound but feeling the floor underneath him shake a little. Great … He lifted up the astronaut covers and saw pillows stuffed underneath. Paul must have known they were coming for him. Good, maybe this will be a little more interesting.

He heard movement in the hallway and opened the door slightly and saw Paul’s mother heading toward one of the rooms; the sound of a toilet flushing coming from where she’d exited. He waited until she’d entered the next room, then heard more movement downstairs, and followed the sound, making sure he was sticking to the wall. Even if Paul had any weapons ready, he’d still be able to take him by surprise. After all, alerting Paul’s mother to her son being taken in the middle of the night would complicate things.

Near the small kitchen was a door with sound coming from underneath it, so he figured the room was a basement. He opened the door from the wall above, entered, and kept to the ceiling as he moved across the dark room. Despite the darkness, he could see perfectly, his senses alive and ready to catch his prey. He smelled the deodorant of a teenage boy nearby, underneath him. Sensing already that there would be no fun to this game, boredom overtook him. Still, sticking to procedure, he jumped ten feet down, landing right behind Paul, who was sitting in a chair waiting.

He moved his hand quickly, his movement making enough wind that it spun Paul’s chair around to face him. Paul kept his eyes to the ground, acting unmoved as he faced his kidnapper. Paul didn’t look afraid of him, but he could hear Paul’s heart beating and smell the sweat around his palms, down his back, and on his forehead. His wrists were tense as his hands were clutching his chair tightly, more out of fear, it seemed, than with the ability to struggle.

Bored, and not feeling the need to scare the boy beyond his current state, he pulled out his tranquilizer and shot Paul in the neck where it would put him out right away. Getting this guy was easier than taking a baby kitten from its mother. Even then you’d be ready to feel the tiny animal dig its claws into you before it gave in to its fate of a new beginning. Taking this guy was nothing; his level one training modules were even harder than this.

He watched Paul’s eyes flutter shut and his hands let go of their grip. He picked him up, flung him over his back, and headed out the smaller window that was at the top of the basement wall. The feeling of dissatisfaction bore into him. He couldn’t help agreeing with Lynn. All these numerous pre-mission jobs were getting tiresome. He hungered for more …

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna moved down the stairs, still glowing brightly. Her dog barked even louder now. The noise was troubling. She moved toward her kitchen, looking at everything through her strange sight as if she were looking at it all for the first time. Everything was in dark colors of black and blue, with the exception of Smoky, who was a deep green color.

Her eyes, despite her fear, seemed to be pulled to the riming of the walls around the house. Inside them were tiny bits of little lightning particles, again reminding her of millions of ants. They seemed to be alive, forming a shivering line and moving weakly as if needing to be turned on. As she stepped into the kitchen, the lights seemed to move and wind inside different fixtures. The fridge seemed to be the one place that the lines of light particles wanted to go to, where they could shine and live without weakness compared to the rest of the fixtures.

The knocking stopped abruptly, causing Donna’s heart in her body to beat so uncontrollably that she felt like she was going to explode. Smoky moved more toward the other window, barking still, so she knew the person must be leaving. As afraid as she was, she knew this was her chance to see who was out there.

Frozen by the wall near her kitchen door, she had to make a decision. She could wait for the killer to come back, though she feared he might not need to, for right now she was surely going to drown in her own raw compulsions, or she could look out and know her assassin’s face or whatever it would appear to be through her altered sight. Before she was able to fully think it through, she poked her head through her kitchen wall, so she was half outside and half inside.

In the distance, a man of a dark green shade much like her dog walked toward the main road. He had a watch on his wrist that glowed like the electric streams in her house, like her, only this glowing was calling to her. In his pocket, too, she saw something about as big as his palm glowing and calling out to her in the same way.

His arms as he moved toward the road were a deeper green, but more scrambled looking than the rest of his shape. Then, even as he got further away, she recognized the shape of his slumped, depressed body, and suddenly her own body felt less hot and alive. She returned to a less transparent version of herself as her heart slowed.

Her vision changed next, and everything once again looked as it should outside. “Spencer!” she called out to him without thinking, her voice still holding bits of the panic she had been mired in before. He turned around and she jumped back through the wall, completely inside, rushing over to the sink in fear he’d run off.

Her hands, opaque and growing more normal by the second, took hold of the faucet, and she let the water spill out and refill her. The moment they felt whole, she splashed her face, feeling the familiar dense feeling of a regular human body. Then she was out the door, letting Smoky run up to Spencer, stopping him from leaving.

As she approached slowly, Smoky barked until he was able to smell Spencer fully. After a minute he started licking at him, excited that one of his owner’s friends had come home. Spencer scratched behind Smoky’s ears. Satisfied, Smoky trotted back to the porch, leaving Spencer and Donna alone. Awkwardness seemed to take his place.

“I, um, could have sworn I heard you yell my name outside,” Spencer started, looking at her a little afraid.

Donna bit her lip, and looked at the ground. What was she supposed to say? Yeah, well, that’s because I was halfway outside … That would make him feel comfortable being around her. “What, um, are you doing here?” she asked, ignoring his question, unable to fully look into his eyes.

He shrugged, looking at the ground now. “I was going to call but then decided it would be best if I say this face to face, and I couldn’t wait any longer.”

She nodded, still not understanding, but not knowing what to say. She looked down at her own ensemble; all she was wearing was a baggy shirt and shorts. The cold air blowing all around her went through her clothes, making her wish she had more on. A bra, for example. At least I’m not naked like all the other times I turned, she told herself, trying to feel less vulnerable, but with no success. Spencer looked at her strangely, and she realized she was staring down at her clothes. Snap out of it, Donna! she ordered herself. “What is it you came to say, Spencer?” she asked him.

“I wanted,” he stopped and took a breath, looking up at her. “I wanted to say thank you, and I’m sorry.”

She looked at him confused, still out of it from her dream, and her recent terror.

“I only was thinking of myself and my mom after the accident. I forgot,that you’re my friend, the girl who first invited me to play manhunt with her. I forgot you were you.”

She nodded again, still not able to speak, only half absorbing his words. She tried to imagine everything from his eyes: seeing her turn, her body burning him as he rushed to save her, him being afraid for himself and his mom. Not that she really understood that whole thing. She took a deep breath and looked back up at him. “You saved my life that day of the accident, Spencer,” she said slowly, tears coming to her eyes. She didn’t know exactly what would have happened had he and Rebecca just left her there in the street and run away, to have someone find her there, in her glowing form. It had been the first time she had ever changed, and she’d felt so weak and scared then.

“Then I ran,” he said looking at the ground, ashamed.

She walked closer to him slowly, praying that when he looked back up at her she wouldn’t see fear in his eyes. “You saved me,” she said again, not able to say anything else.

His eyes met hers, and she felt more and more tears come from her, and then he began to wrap his arms around her very slowly. He hugged her, and she cried into his shirt and hugged him back. He pulled away from her after a moment and looked into her eyes. She saw the look, not as much fear, this time, but more like caution and puzzlement.

“Donna,” he hesitated. “What are you?”

She felt so small and tiny at that moment. She wiped her tears on her shirt and looked to the ground, feeling as if he was looking at some human with an extra eye or something. She looked back up at him, the new season’s coldness surrounding her. “I don’t know,” she answered, feeling ashamed. Hearing her words made her feel alone again, but a different kind of loneliness this time. It was like this town she’d grown up in only contained the two of them at the moment. She was still alone, but now she and Spencer were alone together. Maybe alone wasn’t the right word anymore. They were … abandoned.

 

  • * *

 

Rebecca

 

It was 12:30 at night and Rebecca sat on her bed crying. Like a child, she hugged her pillow and felt afraid and depressed. She’d tried Paul from her cell phone ten times, and from her home phone five times. He was gone, they had taken him.

Would she ever see him again? Kiss him again? More tears flushed through her eyes and she couldn’t stand it any longer. She grabbed her cell phone and started to call his home phone but hung up after one ring. If she were the one to alarm his mom he wasn’t there, then she’d have to think of a reason why she knew that. Becoming a target wasn’t going to help Paul.

She remembered his words, his voice, his touch … and started dialing Donna’s number instead. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do, but she had to do something.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna waited for Spencer and Rebecca. Rebecca called and said she wanted to come over. She sounded pretty urgent, like she was in trouble, so Spencer had gone to meet her halfway.

Rebecca’s coming here … Rebecca and Spencer will be alone in my house with me, by choice. The three of us together … The last time they were alone together was right before the accident. The last time Donna was truly happy and normal, they had been together.

Donna knew she should have been happy, relieved, on the verge of crying again with tears of joy, but Spencer had said Rebecca had sounded worried. This filled Donna’s head with the last second she had seen Spencer and Rebecca, when they were all alone, after the accident. Running away from her …

Donna went upstairs and got dressed; this night had gone from scary to emotional and now back to eerie. Why could Donna not shake the feeling of her dream, or Paul’s words? Why did she feel like something terrible was going to happen tonight, like this was the calm before the storm?

She was now fully awake and knew that even after Spencer and Rebecca left there was no way she’d get another wink of sleep. She brushed her tangled hair back into a ponytail and felt Smoky at her feet, loyal and ready to comfort her as always.

She petted his soft fur, wishing she could shrug off the spooky feeling once and for all. She actually thought about calling Ryan. She knew it was pathetic, that he’d think she was insane to call him out of the blue. As if she even had the right to call him in the first place, to say she was afraid some monster was coming to get her. Yet in her fickle mind she wanted the feeling of strong arms around her keeping her safe. Not just any strong arms, but his. Down to her core all she wanted was for him to tell her it was all going to be okay.

He’d think I was crazy. He’d look at me with the same look Spencer used to give me, she told herself, heading downstairs. She thought about her dream, which would have been nice if it wasn’t for the end of it, which had turned it into a nightmare.

She downed five glasses of water and began filling another, not satisfied, when she heard the doorbell. She checked through the window this time, knowing it was Spencer and Rebecca but wanting to make sure. She felt her heartbeat quicken and after seeing them, she let out a breath that she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.

She opened the door and let Smoky do his barking and licking routine. Donna’s eyes went to Rebecca right away; she looked terrible. Worse than terrible, she looked like she was dying. Her tiny body had never looked so breakable. Her fragile pale skin was almost green looking. Her eyes were baggy and bloodshot like she’d been crying for days. Donna had to fight the reflex not to go over and hug her. Spencer looked worried too, but Donna wondered if it was more because of their friend’s appearance than him knowing the reason why. “What’s going on?” she asked them as they walked inside.

“They have Paul,” Rebecca whispered, a tear escaping from her eye that she quickly wiped away.

Donna got goose bumps at hearing Paul’s name, but couldn’t comprehend what Rebecca meant. Donna tried to ask, “Rebecca, what are you—”

“Paul was taken,” she interrupted, her voice a little louder, but still shaky. Spencer held Rebecca then, guiding her to the kitchen table like she was a china doll. He sat down too, as if to brace himself to hear more. Donna stayed very still, letting each of Rebecca’s words sink in as if each word had a story behind it. A story she didn’t want to read. Paul. Was. Taken … They. Have. Paul.

“Rebecca,” Spencer started, bringing Donna back to the nightmare she was clearly still trapped in. He spoke to Rebecca clearly and gently. “Who has Paul?”

Rebecca looked at them, pausing for a moment. As if she didn’t truly believe the answer she was about to give. As if it frightened her enough to make her shake. As if her worst fear had come to life. “The government.”

“The … ?” Spencer stopped himself from making a quick remark. His silence seemed just as bad as Rebecca’s words. Right now Spencer had to be the brave one, the man of the group. Donna didn’t know if she could even speak anymore. She was lost, lost in Rebecca’s words, still unable to accept them, afraid to hear more.

“The government?” Spencer repeated.

Rebecca nodded like the words hurt.

“The government took Paul Cohen?” he tried again. “Why would—”

“Paul hacked into a government branch a year ago. A secret one, one that had a base nearby,” she interrupted him, able to speak without crying or shaking. As weak as she was, her words seemed to demand attention.

“You’re serious?” Spencer said after another deadly moment of silence. Rebecca nodded.

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

After Donna had first changed, she felt like her world had ended. Her life had never been great to begin with. How could someone hope to move on when they were clearly a freak of life, a sign of nothingness? Now she realized, as the words all came together, that the world had never ended, it had merely stood still; held its breath, waiting to pounce on her once and for all. Paul hacked into a government branch. A secret government …

If they catch you they’ll kill you! Tell no one about this … They took Paul. Paul was taken!

Spencer cussed under his breath. “You’re sure, I mean, how can you really know that the—”

“Because he knew they were coming,” Donna interrupted him this time, her words taking her breath away. She leaned against the counter, feeling all the water she’d drank before they arrived literally evaporate in her stomach. It all was coming together and worse, make sense, a sick joke some evil riddler was spinning. Spencer seemed to look back and forth from Donna to Rebecca, still in the dark.

“How could you … ?” Rebecca stared at Donna, tears starting to come again.

“He told me today,” Donna began speaking, reliving the memory. “He told me to tell no one what I could do, that people would try to kill me.” Donna paused, now looking directly at them. Feeling like she was finally strands away from solving the puzzle that was herself. “He was just so sure. Like he knew them, my killers, he knew them personally. Knew who they were, what I was, and what they wanted. I just could tell he knew everything.” Rebecca and Donna seemed to hold a new understanding at that moment as they stared into each other’s eyes. Like they both could sense the scary monster that was coming for them all.

“Hold on. Back up! I am still so lost here. ” Spencer looked at both of them. “Rebecca, please, start again, from the beginning. I got the government hacking job, what next?”

“He, he didn’t tell me everything. He wanted to protect me. What I know is that what he hacked into he couldn’t believe; it was all on a secret government not known to us, testing operations with new kinds of soldiers. It all looked so ridiculous, but the missions the soldiers were assigned to held truth to actual events. A team, that by all logical knowledge couldn’t exist, would be sent to take out someone, or do something. The next day the person would be in the paper, dead. Paul knew there had to be another explanation, but he couldn’t pull himself away.

“The more he hacked, the more truth he found. Every mystery he dug up in the papers, it all started to tie into this government group. He became obsessed with finding them out, and the more he found out, the more he came to the conclusion, based on the evidence, that the branch was evil. The things they were doing and planned to do, were inhumane, wrong.

“The government had discovered a new science, one that clearly we were not supposed to know about.” Rebecca stopped, still seeming to have much more to say, much scarier things to say.

“And this new science, it has something to do with Donna and that day of the accident?” Spencer spoke the words right as Donna thought them. “When you said soldiers, you mean … ?”

“Me?” Donna finished for him, though she spoke so low it was hard to tell if either heard her.

“Humans with abilities to do what they wanted, without being stopped,” Rebecca answered.

“Holy … ” Spencer cussed aloud, so many profanities that he sounded more like Randy Applegate than himself. “I’m dead, right? This is hell, and I’m in it. These soldiers—” he looked back to Donna for a minute, “—took Paul?”

“Is that what I am, is that what I’m turning into?” Donna asked Rebecca, desperate yet afraid of the answer.

“It’s what he thought you were. What I thought you must have been. He found that there were others here, watching him, looking for the hacker, and others our age being trained. He didn’t think you could have escaped them, been on your own all these years under their nose.”

Donna shook, feeling the urge to cry but found her body unable to produce tears. “I-I know nothing about these people, or any of this. I was normal, till that day the car drove through me. I can’t be a soldier, I’m nothing but … ” Donna couldn’t finish. Who was she pleading with? Spencer sat lost in thought, clearly not ready to continue this sick conversation that by all standards should be imaginary. Rebecca only seemed to look worse and worse, her answers only bringing forth more questions.

“I know that now, and I’m sorry, Donna. I’m so sorry I ever doubted you,” she cried. “Paul figured it all out today, and he knew because you weren’t one of them, that we’d be safe with you.”

“Safe?” Donna spoke the words, they seemed to get more foreign by the moment. “Safe? How could any of us be safe now?” It all seemed to keep hitting her again from all directions. Paul was taken, and she was turning into something … bad, and now that they all knew the truth, more could be coming for them to. More … like her!

Ryan! Her mind screamed, calling out to the hero in her dream. She needed a hero now. I could go to him! Who cares if he wouldn’t listen! Who cares about anything! I could see him one last time before they … No, Donna! He can’t protect you! No one can protect you! The evil voice, the voice of the woman who looked like her mother covered by night in her dream, whispered to her. They’d only come after him too! Donna took a deep breath. Oh, God, I’m going crazy. But didn’t the evil voice have a point? She endangered everyone she came into contact with now. Even if Ryan could comfort her, magically turn back into the friend he’d once been, she loved him too much to be the reason to have him taken away by some evil government things.

“So if they’ve taken Paul, what happens next? Do they come for us?” Spencer asked, calling Donna back from her thoughts and fears.

“You and Donna are safe, as for me, I don’t know. Paul said I was safe. That Donna could protect me if they ever did come, but I don’t care about me. Paul is the key. He is the hero. He gave himself up tonight!” Her crying became more full of anger, of her last bit of strength, of a desperation for justice. “He wouldn’t even run so that we could be looked over! He could have found out more, a way to protect himself, and he gave it up for us! For his mother, for his family! For every innocent person in this town! We have to do something! Do something now!”

“Rebecca, hold it for a second,” Spencer said in a calming yet out of it voice, once again breaking the silence. “I-I don’t know how much of this I can buy, okay, but I know myself. I’ve lived knowing people were looking for me. People that wanted to hurt my mom or me, and the only thing that ever worked was hiding, staying put. Is that not what Paul wanted us to do?”

Donna seemed to look at her friend in a new way. Spencer seemed much more a man than he did a boy, much more an adult than her comedic friend. Had he been through all this before? Something like it anyway …

“We, I mean, I, I can run. I’ll run and hide forever. I’d like nothing more than to do just that,” Rebecca answered him, her teary self diminished. “But it has to be with him, with Paul. I love him.”

Donna felt herself turn just then. Felt her body glow transparent and bright, and knowing how much her turning would scare her little fragile friend, she willed herself with all her might back to humanity, like she had twice before. Spencer and Rebecca just stared.

“Wow! Wow! Wow!” Spencer began, following with swearing. “Wow, just when your mind says maybe this is a sick joke, fate reminds you, no, Spencer, no it isn’t. Wow … ” More cursing followed as he was up on his feet now pacing back and forth.

“Rebecca?” Donna asked. “What is it you’re demanding right now? How am I supposed to keep you safe?” Me keep someone safe? That was a joke. Rebecca was right about everything but that. Paul must be the hero. After all, he’d saved Donna today. Skinny, brainy Paul, the hero, was taken. The boy her friend had fallen for. Time was going by so fast now.

“You have a weapon, an ability, just like the ones who took him have. I’m asking you to use it to save him.”

Both Donna’s and Spencer’s mouths dropped open in shock at her words.

“I-I can’t, I mean, I’m not. How could I?” Donna asked.

“If tonight’s taught us anything, Rebecca, it’s that underneath all of what Donna can do she’s still our Donna. She needs to be kept safe just like you do.”

“I know, and I’m so sorry to ask this of you,” Rebecca begged, ignoring Spencer, who seemed to be the voice of reason for once. “But please, please, you know what it’s like to watch people live day by day with someone gone. Please stop that from happening to me! I’ll owe you everything!”

Donna shook again. Rebecca had said it. Said the words that Donna couldn’t deny. If she’d been asked by her father to help try to save her mother, or to save her brother, could she really say no because she was afraid? Could she agree to give up because Spencer was the one person left who believed she needed to be kept safe? I can’t. How could I, Donna Young, save any of them? Could she let Rebecca take on her father’s disease of sorrow in an even worse way? Would they all stand around and wait for the monsters to come get them?

Everyone was quiet now, waiting for her to speak. “Okay,” Donna let out the word, surrendering. “I’ll do whatever you ask.”

“Ok, ok, I’m drunk right?” Spencer shouted out. “Please tell me I’m drunk, you two can’t really be thinking … How would you even know how to find them? If this is the government, how could three teenagers, even if one has some kind of comic book power, be able to stop them?”

Rebecca pulled out something that looked like a science project made from a cell phone. “They planted bugs on Paul. He rewired them, so they would work backwards, so to speak,” Rebecca spoke like she didn’t believe her own words but was on a roll, all the brilliance she contained struggling to come up with a logical plan. “Now when I turn this on we can listen to what they’re saying to him if he’s turned his bug on too. If he’s right about others training here, then their base can’t be that far away. We use what we hear to figure it out.”

Donna nodded, knowing now there was no way out.

“This is East Applegate we’re talking about. This town is smaller than a supermarket. Don’t you think we would have noticed a secret government base?” Spencer went on, refusing to go along with this.

“Yeah, I know. It makes no sense. I’ve been pondering that a lot. Even with the ‘do not go to West Applegate’ rule, it’s still logical that if it was on that side we’d all know something was up. So there is only one place, one place both sides can’t go without clearance. One place big enough, surrounded by more protection and money than any other place in our towns. Maybe even our state.”

“Holy … ” Spencer seemed to know the answer as she told it. “The power plant,” Rebecca breathed.

Donna felt her heart stop, felt her hands crave all the energy her different sight would have allowed her to see, had she not been fighting the urge to turn every moment of this conversation.

“You’re right, God help us, you’re right,” Spencer agreed, as all his accusations against the owners of the power plant, the Applegates, seemed to fit into this perfectly for him.

“No, your wrong, it can’t be.” Even as Donna denied it though, a thought she’d always had seemed to linger its way up to the surface of her mind. The power plant explosion … Maybe everyone did go crazy, maybe that’s why her brother ran away

“I’ve looked it up, Donna, the plant is twice the size of what a normal power plant should be,” Rebecca went on with her facts. Her facts that had to be wrong …

“But we’ve been there on field trips a hundred times,” Donna said, trying to come up with an argument, but not succeeding.

“Yeah, and how much of it is off limits for the public to see?” Rebecca asked her.

“That’s because it’s dangerous,” Donna was babbling now.

“Maybe in more ways than we want to know.”

“The Applegates wouldn’t, couldn’t know, they couldn’t.” Donna thought about her godfather. He wasn’t her favorite person, but he was family.

“I’m sure they’re all rolling in it, probably use the extra money from the government for Randy’s car payments—”

“It doesn’t matter, not right now. It’s almost one in the morning. Time is running out. Donna are you going to do this? Please?”

“Yes,” Donna said weakly, unable to take the words back; picturing her father’s dread on Rebecca. But what was it they were really going to do? How could this be pulled off?

“Spencer, I—” Spencer had already stood up and headed toward Donna’s fridge. He grabbed one of her father’s cold beers and downed it, his strange behavior silencing Rebecca.

“Yep,” he started, as if the beer had made all his doubt disappear. “Ok, now I’m ready. Been running all my life, might as well help someone else run,” he laughed to himself. “You didn’t really think I’d let you girls go running toward probable death without someone at least pretending to be a man, right?”

 

  • * *

 

Paul

 

Paul felt his head throb with pain, his body was bound, and he felt tired and vulnerable. He tried to open his eyes, but just like a moment ago, the room was dancing around him, and all shapes were a blur. He closed his eyes again, counting backwards from a million. After the few minutes it took him to reach nine hundred thousand he opened them. The blurred room wasn’t dancing, so he wasn’t dizzy anymore at least, though the feeling of nausea hadn’t quite been relieved.

He concentrated, counting backwards further with his eyes now open. 899,999. 899,998, 899,997 … The blurred grayness settled into the walls around him. The darkness in the corner of the room seemed to turn into a great hallway leading to places Paul would rather not think about. He looked up, now fully able to see. The ceiling was black, with a big, bright light shining down on him, making him sweat.

He looked down, only for a second before his glasses started to slide off his face. He held his head high to keep them on. With his hands and feet cuffed, there would be no pushing them back now. He seemed to be on a tall chair alone in the room, though he wasn’t really dumb enough to think he wasn’t being watched. He wondered to himself if he was in the power plant or if they’d taken him somewhere else to kill him, or something much worse.

The things these people were responsible for doing, and what they had in store for the future … One day they’d have to be stopped. After Paul was gone. Thanks to his computer skills, maybe they would be. At least he would die knowing there was a chance he’d made a difference.

He thought about Rebecca and his mom. Even his dad was on his mind. He hoped they’d be safe, that Donna could protect them until the truth came out. Rebecca … Would the biggest threat this town, maybe even this country had, be the one to come after them? The biomax soldier who was created to be unstoppable was the one who’d taken him tonight. Or was it last night? Paul had no idea how much time had passed. Had it been hours or days? He couldn’t tell.

He’d left behind clues for Rebecca and Donna. Would it be enough to prepare them? The sound of voices seemed to pull him away from his thoughts. He twisted his head back toward the hallway and spied a husky man in a suit coming toward him. The man was about his height and looked like a bodyguard outside a Vegas casino. The kind that beat you up if you won too much money.

Paul turned his head back around and stared straight ahead, trying not to show fear. The man walked slowly around Paul’s chair. Finally, after a long second, the man and Paul were facing one another, giving Paul no choice but to look straight up at him. The man’s eyes held mystery and something else Paul couldn’t put his finger on. He looked Paul up and down, as if disappointed by Paul’s lack of physical strength. Then he bent down, his husky figure moving in an unexpected, almost feminine manner, as he unlocked the cuffs on Paul’s feet and hands.

“He’ll see you now,” he told Paul after a moment and motioned Paul to follow him. Paul stood up slowly, almost tripping over his feet, which had fallen asleep sometime during his imprisonment. He followed the man. The words he’d used were unnerving to Paul. He’ll see you now. As if he’d gone to a doctor’s appointment and the nurse had summoned him. The new casualness about the whole thing made Paul feel like a mouse being played with by a mountain lion.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna walked with Spencer and Rebecca through the woods. It was about 2:30 in the morning and very dark out. The sky had no stars in it. Donna couldn’t even see the moon. They only had a few flashlights, which Donna didn’t even touch, for fear they’d lose their power due to her … situation.

“So, at the end of the woods, we have three small houses closest to the plant,” Spencer rambled on, saying things they all already knew. “Then miles of field until we’re behind the plant, which is surrounded by a barbed wire fence. Anything in your bag of tricks, Rebecca, that’s going to help us with that?” Spencer was referring to the bag Rebecca had snuck back into her house to get before they started through the woods.

“I don’t know yet,” her voice filled with unease. “I’ll think of something.”

Donna knew what she could say, but could she really say it? Was she really going to use her new abilities, that before today had only seemed good for her gymnastics, to break Paul out of her town’s power plant, evidently being used by a government agency? What if they were wrong? What if they got there and it was too late for Paul? Would she be relieved that her godfather, Ryan’s and Randy’s father, was in the clear?

“I-I can probably get through it.” Donna’s words were full of self-doubt.

Rebecca was quiet, understanding what Donna meant right away.

“Through it?” Spencer pondered. “You don’t mean … Oh!” He was silent for a second. “You do! You mean THROUGH it, as in, when that car went through you.”

Donna nodded. “I think so. I don’t really understand it. What I am, what I can do, I never wanted to understand it.”

“Your body turns into energy,” Rebecca answered for her. “Paul figured out that much. He had hacked into a similar report, but it didn’t say much. I didn’t know if I really believed it, even after that day, till I saw you turn in the kitchen. I mean, a human body living through that more than once is so unbelievable,” she said the last part with a scientific look on her face like she had when she wrote reports. The look of fascination …

“Like electricity right?” Spencer asked Rebecca as they all kept on walking. “That’s what she looked like anyway.”

“Yeah, just like that.”

This is so weird, Donna thought. Actually having people talk about whatever I am. Donna knew she had a better answer for that now. She was some kind of government soldier freak, oblivious to the government, somehow. She’d much rather just pretend whatever she was was still a mystery. For the new truth seemed much worse now than not knowing.

 

  • * *

 

Paul

 

The hallway was long, seeming to circle around and around forever. The walls had gone from gray to white, and it smelled like a hospital to Paul. The ceiling seemed to get lower and lower. He figured he had to be walking through a basement hallway underneath the plant. Guards were everywhere, standing like soldiers protecting a castle. Most of the guards wore suits, but a few odd ones were dressed in army gear. All of them routinely ignored Paul and the husky man, as if they weren’t there at all.

Every couple of feet they passed doors on either side of them. Some of them were open, revealing a horde of people in lab coats. Others were closed with keypads over their handles for access. I bet I could hack those if given enough time, Paul fantasized. Not that he planned on escaping. No, it was foolish to give himself hope for that, but still his computer literate mind raced with the possibilities of taking this place down from the inside. He was weak and feeble physically, but his mind as always was his greatest tool, even when it was clouded with pain.

The husky man stopped abruptly at a door on the left. He punched in three different codes then slid his ID through a card panel. The door made a beeping sound as it opened. Paul followed him into a huge room. It was the size of two classrooms with a very tall ceiling.

The walls of the room were covered with computer screens from the floor to the top. Paul tried to take it all in. Walking around the room, busy like bees, were about twenty men, all in what looked like gray hospital scrubs. One or two he even recognized right away from town. Some looked at him, others ignored him like the guards had. It was obvious they had all been warned about Paul’s visit. The kidnapping of a teenage boy from their own neighborhood seemed like no big deal.

This room was warmer than all the others. Paul tried his best to ignore the smell of his own sweat; it seemed to be his voice at the moment, telling everyone how hopeless he was. I still have my mind. As long as I’m not dead, I still have my mind … As Paul looked now to the computer screens, he saw the horrific hypothesis he’d earlier predicted be affirmed. His stomach dropped.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

“So how many times have you turned?” Rebecca asked Donna when they were about a mile away from the end of the forest.

“A lot of times now. I think I lost track after ten. Whenever I’m afraid, it happens,” Donna admitted. Her fear somehow had lessened, only to be replaced by an unsettling return of eeriness. She felt like she was in her creepy dream again. Only this time I’m really awake!

“And water, like when you were in the lake—”

“Makes me human again,” Donna finished for her.

“Is that the only way?”

“Well,” Donna paused.

“Well?” Spencer spoke up.

“Four times I’ve been able to turn back on my own.”

“That’s it? Four times?” Spencer asked her.

“So you can control your ability to make your body look normal then?” Rebecca seemed a little relieved, though Donna didn’t know why.

“Well I wouldn’t say that.”

“What would you say?” Spencer went on asking.

“Two of those times I turned back on my own were earlier today. I don’t think we should count on it helping us.”

“This is reassuring,” Spencer mumbled sarcastically.

Rebecca went to ask a question but then stopped herself.

“Well now that we are less then twenty minutes out of the woods do you think we should discuss fully what we are going to do? Before we go in head first with an electric girl about to take down a secret government! No offense,” he gestured toward Donna. “But will there be other electric things, or soldiers, I mean, waiting?”

Donna shivered. Others like me?

“I-I don’t think they’ll all be like Donna,” Rebecca offered. “Paul made it seem like there were other things they could do. I think the electric thing is rare.”

“Other things?” Spencer repeated.

 

  • * *

 

Paul

 

Paul looked at each computer screen, hypnotized. The first twenty, maybe more, showed the outside of the power plant and everything inside it; people at the front door entrances, workers in safe suits near the main power source, and so much more.

Everything was monitored to such an extreme that it didn’t even seem real. Paul tried to take it all in the best he could. The outside screens showed it was still night, and the parking lot seemed empty. It must still be really late. Maybe I haven’t been here as long as it seems.

Then Paul looked past those monitors, and saw a group of screens committed to monitoring the Applegate’s mansion. Eight screens with different outside views, and another eight for the inside of the house. Further down past those sets of screens were screens monitoring different houses in Paul’s town. His school had four screens monitoring the outside of it. Another two screens showed different angles of the football field and the inside of the gym. Then he moved down further and saw a screen for his own house and one for Rebecca’s next to it. Paul’s world seemed to stop.

“Beautiful isn’t it?” an evil voice called from behind him.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

“So what can you do?” Spencer asked Donna again.

“I … I don’t really know anything about me.”

“Yes you do,” Rebecca said gently. “You can turn into electricity and go through things, and maybe you can turn back to normal if you really try. We can use that, Donna.” Rebecca for a second sounded like Brook, strong, ready for anything. It made Donna feel better in a weird way. It was clear Rebecca’s determination to save Paul was giving her a new kind of strength. Paul, he was the key. I wish someone loved me like that.

“I think I can take it too. Electricity I mean,” Donna explained. “It kinda comes into me, it’s like I absorb it somehow from appliances.”

“That’s useful,” Rebecca muttered, almost tripping in the last bit of woods that was left.

“Don’t forget the most obvious thing,” Spencer spoke aloud, moving his hands.

Donna looked at him, not understanding what he meant. He tried to help her get it by touching one of his arms to the other, treating himself as if he had an open wound, making Donna remember the burned scars underneath his clothes. “Skin isn’t exactly electricity proof.”

Donna took a deep breath, new fears breaking into her mind. What if I have to do that to someone else? What if I have to hurt them? Reality seemed to hit Donna again, slamming her in the chest. She really could be dangerous to others. A soldier …

 

  • * *

 

Spencer

 

Spencer slowed down, waiting for Rebecca. She was the slowest of all of them. This is insane! he told himself for the hundredth time. For some reason it didn’t seem to make him feel any better. Rebecca and Donna shouldn’t have to do this! They’re … girls. Not just any girls, they were his best friends. Ok, well there is the small fact that one of them can turn into something that should only be able to exist in a comic book.

An abrupt noise, like an old dying radio, seemed to come out of Rebecca’s bag, scaring them all to death. A different feeling seemed to flood Rebecca’s being as she became frantic, throwing her bag down and tearing through it, searching for the noise as if it was her last link to life. She pulled out the cell phone Paul had turned into a backwards bug, or whatever Rebecca had called it before, trying to explain it to them. She turned one of the knobs on the side of it, making the noise it was projecting louder. “We must be close enough!” she said, getting teary. “Close enough to hear Paul.”

“Beau … isn’t … it.” The voice was static, hard to hear. They all got closer, huddling around to hear it.

And here it comes …

“Mr. Cohen.” The voice was clearer now, and it wasn’t Paul’s. It was an older, cocky voice, a voice of someone in charge. A voice Spencer knew he’d hear before it even came out.

 

  • * *

 

Paul

 

Paul looked at him. The man behind the people who had taken him. The man who ran this town. Richard Applegate. He waved his hands toward the screens, showing them off. “East Applegate and all the treasures it contains, kept safe under our watchful eye.”

His manner made him stand out over all the others in the room, the way he walked around and pondered over things as if this was his own private great room, and he was stroking antiques instead of computer monitors. The way he seemed to truly be bathing in his own insane glory rather than actually having work to do.

Safe. Your definition of that word is truly an atrocious one. Paul wished he had the nerve to say that.

“Now take in mind, young man, we do not give private tours of our home here to just any pestering hackers. No, such trifling types usually go straight to this room here.” Mr. Applegate pointed to one screen in particular. It was on an angle making it hard for Paul to visibly see all of it, but he got the idea from what he could make out. A room that looked somewhat dark. With a man in a chair, a more dangerous looking chair than Paul had been sitting in earlier when he was being held. Another man, someone that looked like a doctor, was putting tools to the man’s head, causing him pain. Mr. Applegate let Paul fully take the thing he was being shown in before he finished his sentence. “Then they are shipped off to a very hospitable mental institution. All the trouble they went to hoping to find us out is undone, I’m afraid.

“But, fortunately, you proved to be more of an ambitious matter,” Mr. Applegate went on. “Not only by your ability to break the law through some impressive digital spying. You should also be proud to know that you put some of our friends in Japan, who’ve been trying to break into our systems for years now, to shame.”

Mr. Applegate wasn’t looking at Paul. His eyes seemed to be admiring a random screen. “Oh, no, there is no denying that you’re very talented, but, let’s be realistic. This is the age of computers we live in now, a grand time when a talent such as yours can be taught with time to any brilliant mind.” He turned his eyes back to Paul, seeming pleased.

“No, what makes you so special is the precious time it took to track you down. For two months, we were convinced you were a forty year old man living in Alaska, whom we’d run into problems with a few years back. A month after he was “taken care of,” we realized we had dispersed a load of effort into taking down the wrong hacker. You can’t imagine the frustration and the intrigue this caused me.

“When I found out you lived in my own town, under my own roof so to speak, I can’t say I wasn’t impressed. The cherry on top of the cake, though, was that our hacker was barely eighteen, an adult by merely a few months. Going to school with my own boys, as a matter of fact.” Mr. Applegate put his arm on Paul’s shoulder as if to give him a “job well done” speech. He then lowered his voice and came in closer to Paul. Like he was telling a private joke only he and Paul were literate enough to understand. “You remind me in some ways of myself when I was your age.

“And that—” He took a step back, to Paul’s relief, his attention now fixed on the screens. “—is why you are about to be given a choice, Mr. Cohen. A choice that is not to be taken lightly. But know that as we speak, your time is running out.”

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna couldn’t stand, couldn’t breathe. All the shock, and the dreadful chicanery, and stunned confusion seemed to explode as Mr. Applegate’s identity was revealed. Then panic took over as they listened to his last words. Your time is running out. Donna was chilled to the core as her brain went into do or die panic mode. Something distant was calling to her. The words echoed in the back of her mind. It was a voice whose language she couldn’t understand. Yet it seemed to be warning her of something more disturbing up ahead. If only Donna had time to decipher what that could be.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT! Paul’s time is running out! P-A-U-L … The machine they were listening to died out. Then the three of them were running out of the forest toward the small houses that were all that stood between the field beyond and the power plant. Up until now, none of this had seemed completely real. Like maybe they’d get to this point and find out this was all really a sick joke, a prank with an explainable ending. Yet it wasn’t, and figuring out what to do next was what seemed impossible.

It really was Mr.Applegate, Ryan and Randy’s father, who had taken Paul! The man she had known her whole life … It really was him! Donna felt dreadful. And worse yet, how much deeply would she be connected to all this? Somehow, all her brain could shout at her was that everything was her fault. It was her fault Paul was taken.

“So what should Rebecca and I do? How do we get through the doors?” Spencer shouted while keeping up with them. Visions created by Donna’s own fear seemed to illustrate different ghastly scenarios awaiting them. She could walk through the wall, find Paul … but would she have enough time to get Rebecca and Spencer in somehow? No!

Then there was the question of how to get Paul out of the plant, and again what to do with Spencer and Rebecca? I can’t do this! She didn’t have time to think about a real plan. There couldn’t have ever of been a sane one anyway.

Time, time, time …

“I’m going in alone,” Donna said, her words making them all stop. If she was going to do this she had to do it now, before fear and all sense sunk in. There was no time to discuss anything. Her heart raced, her mind felt betrayed, her head craved water to calm her down while her body seemed to want nothing more than to turn, to become lighter than air, to run, and run, and run, and cease to be human. Already she felt her skin tingle and felt as if it was falling asleep.

“There is no way, Donna—”

“How could I get you two in? I can walk through walls but I can’t break them down. Once I’m in all I’m going to be able to do is find him, if that. I don’t have the strength to get three people in and out, I don’t even know if I can really do anything!”

“There’s gotta be a different way,” Spencer started.

“No, she’s right.” Rebecca’s appearance of brokenness returned to her features. Her strength diminished.

“I can’t just sit here and do nothing while one of my best friends—” Spencer was interrupted.

“You won’t,” Donna told him, her body screaming to turn, or to run, to do anything but stand still. “If he and I can get out, we’ll run this way. I’ll need you, both of you, once we get into the forest.” Donna hoped her words weren’t selfish ones, but they held her truth, truth that she wasn’t some mighty soldier. She was Donna Young, a lost little girl not knowing what to do, not able to make sense of anything, but willing to make a move.

“I-I … ” Spencer still reasoned with himself to come up with a better plan.

“Here,” Rebecca went over to Donna, opening up her bag, and put a wig on top of Donna’s head. It was an old Rastafarian wig of Spencer’s that he’d worn two years ago as a Halloween gag. As Rebecca was trying to hastily adjust it, she abruptly pulled her hands away. Donna’s pre-electric body shocking her tiny hands. “No big deal,” Rebecca said, before Donna could apologize. She grabbed a big hair scrunchy, tying part of the wig back with Donna’s own hair to keep it strongly in place; then roughly threw on to Donna one of her dad’s old green camping jackets, lastly rubbing her hands in dirt and smearing a little on Donna’s face.

“I love you, Donna,” Rebecca told her, giving her a quick hug while probably being shocked by Donna’s skin again. Donna nodded, taking one last look at her while grabbing the chilled water bottle from her bag. Then Spencer was behind Donna, looking very old all of a sudden. He hugged Donna, hard.

“You’ll always be my friend,” he told her in a husky voice. “I’m sorry about everything. Make sure you come back. If anyone tries to hurt you, remember you’re electricity. Shock the hell out of them.”

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

Paul

 

The gruff bodyguard from before escorted Paul back down the long white hallway. The man’s dilatory manner of walking now annoyingly forced Paul to walk almost side by side with him. Paul concentrated on trying to figure out what exactly was off about this man. Yes, he was a brute. Yes, he seemed tough, adamant, and ready to kill Paul if only asked. All these characteristics were just what Paul would expect, but underneath them was a very subtle trace of something else.

The slightest twist of his arm revealed a small insignia tattooed on his wrist. It was meant to be covered by his watch, which wasn’t properly doing the trick. Paul pondered over this, searching his memory for a shred of information he had discovered in his hacking to at least give him a hypothesis.

The hallway ended at a staircase. Paul was made to follow his escort as the staircase twisted into darkness. Further underground they seemed to be going. This power plant had to have three times the basement levels it claimed to have. After the momentary darkness, which Paul guessed was meant to confuse someone who wasn’t meant to be there, the staircase brought them to yet another different looking hallway. This one was a giant room the size of his school, brightly colored, and made up of glass cubicles. It was like the entire place was fit to be in a city skyscraper rather than a power plant basement.

The glass walls made it possible to see everything at once. As Paul walked he looked to one room, and behind it was another, and another … they seemed to go on to infinity, making the onlooker dizzy. Some were filled with computers, others with sports and training equipment, while the darker rooms contained hundreds of guns and weapons.

They were headed toward the biggest glass room of them all. He noticed every door had a different key panel. His escort punched into each panel three codes. The first two sets were the same as the ones he’d used upstairs, only all the numbers were multiplied by three. His last code was entirely different, but Paul made note of it, figuring out the pattern. Then the man swiped his access card through the panel. The doors opened again with an annoying clicking sound.

Paul walked in slowly, he felt like his heart was beating faster than a mouse’s. What more do they want with me? Paul didn’t want to die, but what else could he expect? He didn’t need Mr. Applegate to tell him what they did to the “others” who hacked into their bases. Paul knew all to well. The question was, what did they want with him now? He’d like to wish that he could just walk out of here. Maybe he would have tried to run if it weren’t for his fear that they’d go after his mom or Rebecca. You know if you would have ran, you never would have gotten very far. It’s better this way! Yet Paul’s mind raced with images of him running away with Rebecca, him being the strong hero keeping her safe, them growing old together, stopping the Biomax soldier that was created to take over everything.

A taller man approached them, walking up to them as if he was in a war and this was his battlefield. He was different than all the others in the way he dressed and walked. He wore old torn up jeans, a sleeveless shirt, and dog tags around his neck. His head was shaved, and his muscled arms were covered with what looked like old battle scars. Whether this man was a Biomax soldier or just a human soldier, he gave off the distinction that when it came to this area of the plant, he was in charge.

When Paul met his eyes he looked away, feeling as if the man might command him to do hundreds of pushups before he shot him. The man snickered, seeming to be able to read Paul’s mind and feeling all too high and mighty letting the boy know he was the top dog.

“So, kid, I hear you wanted to know all about the collection of Bios we have here, ” the man told him. Bio’s being short for Biomax soldiers, a title given to all people with altered super abilities. He turned to the escort. “Soldier 1054,” he snapped at him.

The escort didn’t respond, staying firmly planted where he stood, not moving a muscle. The two eyed each other, the crude one in charge staring at his soldier demanding respect, while the escort continued staring with a mocking face of revolt, like a child refusing nap time. The strangeness of the whole thing made more beads of sweat drip down Paul’s forehead, reaching his eyes, seeming almost like tears. Something was coming and Paul could feel it.

After about a minute and a half, the escort gave in grumpily, stepping up and facing Paul, giving off an “I have better things to do right now” vibe. Something about the look in the man’s eyes reminded Paul of something again. Why do I feel like I’ve met this person before?

“Stand down, 1054. Show our guest who you really are,” the leader commanded, daring Paul to watch as his escort or Soldier 1054, turned to him and closed his eyes. He was going into a trance suddenly.

What’s happening?

Then like a lizard, 1054’s skin started to change color, only slightly, and so gradually that it took Paul a full minute to realize it. Within another twenty seconds, his skin had turned from a light pale tone to a shimmering golden tan. At the same time, a noise, like a small humming at first, seemed to becoming from inside him. Every second the sound was getting clearer and clearer till it reached Paul’s ears as sounds of cracking and grinding, getting more and more sickening as it became apparent that the noise was from the twisting of 1054’s own bones.

“You wanted to know what our soldiers could do?” the man in charge taunted, but Paul could barely hear him nor turn his eyes away from 1054. He was sure now he knew what was happening in front of him. He’d read about this in one of the numerous coded files he’d hacked into and downloaded. Yet as many times as he’d imagined it, he never thought it could happen to a person like this and sound so painful. It was like staring at something horrible, but you couldn’t pull your eyes away.

Next, 1054’s face started to change; his pores growing smaller, his eye sockets moving closer together; and his lips bubbling up making themselves thicker and more attractively shaped. His head twisted rounder becoming smaller, tighter, and more youthful looking. His body started to catch up with his head a moment later, twisting and contorting. The sounds being made by the changes just kept getting worse and worse. 1054 grew shorter, and his body and hands got thinner. His suit was shrinking with him. His hair started to turn blond, and grow longer, making a curly mess spill out from around its face. 1054 no longer looked like nor had the body of a man. The face on it was still slowly moving, morphing, into the beginnings of a face Paul had seen five days a week for the past three years.

Paul’s stomach grew sick. It … Her … chest started to grow, bubbling in a similar fashion as her lips just had. Within about three minutes she had changed into the girl everyone in town seemed to know, the excruciating cracking and twisting dying down until they were a hum once again, finishing off with one last abrupt pop. Her eyes flipped open, her face becoming relaxed as if she hadn’t done anything strange or painful at all.

“Your wish has been granted,” the leader finished saying.

Paul hadn’t realized it but during this whole “mutation” he had been taking steps back away from the girl. He only knew it now, because suddenly his legs were hitting the glass wall behind him, forcing him to stay put. His glasses started to fall off him and he didn’t stop them; he let them fall right off his face, somehow catching them in his hands like a zombie.

There before him in a suit perfectly fitting now to her body was Lynn Eris, Soldier 1054, waiting for her next order.

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Many times in life, people have dreams that make no sense whatsoever. Everything is backwards and unreal in them, yet until the person wakes up they just have to get through the dream no matter how scary it may be. That’s how Donna decided she was going to get through this. She’d just keep telling herself this was a dream. That in reality she was asleep in her bed, safe and sound, and all of her friends were really at home asleep too. So, like any other strange dream she was trapped in, she’d just get through it. She’d do what her dream mind wanted her to do, which was free Paul, and then if she got in over her head, she’d just wake up. After all, people can’t get hurt when they’re dreaming. They can’t get killed, and all the strangeness of the dream just fades when they wake up.

Yes, treat this how you’d treat a nightmare. Just get through it, don’t think about all the things that don’t make sense, she told herself through her panic, reasoning with herself to walk calmly as she approached the first line of wire fences. She’d run most of the way there through the open fields, but now cameras could be close, Rebecca had told her. So she had to act somewhat contained so she could at least get in.

Her shaky footsteps seemed to take forever until she was close enough to reach out and touch the fence. All at once all the panic thoughts and adrenalin she’d been holding back for the last few moments she let explode through her mind. TIME IS RUNNING OUT! Paul’s time is running out! She allowed her already tingly body, which had been yearning to turn all night, slip into her electric state. All the comfort of her molecules feeling like separate pieces jumping around and heating her up as her body grew incredibly light. She stepped through the first fence. Feeling it pass through her.

The moment she was through, she reached for the cold water bottle she had tossed over the fence a few yards away and let its coldness and precipitation return her to normal. She was still dressed in her disguise, thank goodness. Not that she had time to think about it as she approached the stone wall up ahead.

Donna knelt her head down, already seeing the cameras pointed in different directions. She turned again, dropping her water bottle and leaving it in the grass. It was time now. There was no going back. She thought about everything that was happening, everything that was scaring her, letting her fear make her body so in need to be electric that as she passed through the wall, she felt all the electricity wired around the wall from the cameras pass into her, feeling like air seeping into her pores, giving her strength.

Then, after that last barrier, she raced over to the back of the power plant, diving into the wall without looking back.

 

  • * *

 

Danny

 

Danny Corrs had come to East Applegate three months ago, transferring from a different government facility in Texas. He’d thought this job would be easy, a chance to prove himself after almost getting fired. Now he wished he’d drunk that coffee before he’d come in for this all nighter shift. He’d been nervous to start out with, because the head honcho, Mr. Applegate’s, surprise visit to the monitoring area. Seeing that poor kid Paul scared to death only four feet away from Danny had made him wish he’d just gotten a regular loan to pay for his schooling, instead of making the deal with the government to do this for the next five years of his life.

With all that on his mind, he’d overlooked screen 733a, one of the screens that monitored sections behind the power plant. He hadn’t seen the guy coming until the last second; an intruder who was tall with dreads. Danny hit the alarm, but before he could give a full report, he saw the most impossible thing. The intruder walked right through a wall. Or at least it looked like that. Then monitor 733a went black.

“What’s happening, Corrs?” one of his managers started shouting at him.

“I don’t know, sir, but we’re sending a team!” Whoever was here, they’d catch him.

God, he wished he hadn’t come in today.

 

 

Chapter Ten

 

Paul

 

What?” Paul started to ask in a shaky voice, trying to look into the leader’s snarling face with little success.

Lynn’s presence there was like a spooky reminder that something more terrible was coming.

“What do you want with me?” There, he’d asked it.

The leader looked like he wanted to scare Paul more, but glanced over at Lynn, who was giving him a very irritable look. He turned to Paul, seeming now like he wanted to get this over with so he could move on to scolding her. “What we’re going to do, kid, is see if that organ in your head is really worth all Applegate thinks it is.”

Paul touched his sticky hands to the wall, wishing they’d melt away. “You’re going to use me?”

“That’s the plan. You’ll be added to one of the—” he paused, looking over to Lynn, “—newer, less conditioned teams. Supposedly, the team that’s going to change it all.”

“You … ” Paul tried to breathe. “You want to make me a-a soldier?”

The leader laughed. “Ha, hardly. What difference could you ever make on the field? You’ll never be more than a hero outside your computer seat,” he spat, resentment hidden underneath every word he breathed. Paul just stared, pretending pathetically that the man was speaking some other language. He couldn’t really be giving Paul this fate.

“Come on, don’t you get it, am I not speaking English? You get to keep your scrawny life in exchange for doing what you would have done anyway, sitting down comfortably reading off computers and cracking codes, while soldiers like 1054 do all the fighting.”

“Mr.—” Paul stuttered, “Mr. Applegate said I had a choice.”

The leader sighed. “Do we have the wrong kid here? Is there another four-eyed dweeb waiting to be debriefed? This isn’t brain surgery; you take our generous offer, or become my soldier’s target practice and die, kid.” The leader was angry now, clearly he didn’t expect Paul to do much but shake and get on his knees and swear he’d do all he could in order to continue breathing.

“How—how long would I have to do this?” he asked desperately, searching his mind for any way out of this. Even if he pretended to be on their side, he’d have to help them at least in small ways. He couldn’t live with that. He knew too much about what their plan was in the end.

They’d hold his parents lives and probably even Rebecca’s over his head for the rest of his life. Maybe he should have run and not let them catch him. Maybe it would have been better if he had fled when he first learned of their existence instead of letting it get this far.

There’s no way out … I’m trapped … I’m …

A loud sound like a bomb seemed to explode in Paul’s ears. It sounded like a fire alarm or something, only much more detrimental. Little lights on the top of the doorways began to flash red like police lights, flashing to the rhythm of the alarm. Two other men, having the same look that the leader seemed to have, tall, bald, muscled, worn-out looking, and armed with guns, charged through the doors, walking quickly over to them.

“Code nine, sir,” one of the men told the leader, while his partner, not being able to help himself, glanced shyly over at Lynn’s beautiful figure. Lynn didn’t seem to notice, her face was wild with anticipation and readiness. She stood straight up now, staring at her leader, whom just a few seconds ago she seemed to despise; now she was ready and willing to take orders.

Yet the leader’s eyes never left Paul, holding him with mocking and disgust.

“Ready to find out how real these soldiers play?” he whispered. His attention on Paul was throwing Lynn into a vicious frenzy. “Keep him in here!” the leader commanded the man who had eyed Lynn. Then the three of them turned to leave, leaving Paul hostage again with another scary escort. But anything was better then what Paul had just had to hear.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Every year since Donna was in the fourth grade she’d been made to go on field trips to the power plant with all her classmates. It had always seemed to be the most important part of her little town besides the hospital. It was where all her classmates parents worked, and the biggest building around.

All in all, though, Donna had always thought it a boring place, a big white building where no music was ever played, and everyone was so serious and quiet, like a library. It had always had a lot of security, but Donna had never thought twice about that. After all, men handling machines and things that could make power and electricity, that did sound dangerous. Or at least it used to.

Every time she’d gone on a field trip there, they’d take the same small tour, the tour where you got to see all the different aspects of how the plant worked and was used. Donna and the kids would always ignore the boring guides and stare at the large maps on the walls showing all the houses the plant gave power to. As years went by, Donna would look at the map of her town, and other small towns it showed, and feel trapped, as if the map was of her personal prison. Maybe that’s why she’d never cared for this place. Maybe that explained why she might have, even in her deepest darkest dreams, feared it.

Now, she dove through the power plant’s back wall, her gymnast instincts causing her to do a front flip without thinking and then to push herself back up onto her feet. She wondered if the reason she’d always hated this big place was because, maybe, this was going to be the place where she was fated to die. Fortunately, time was going by too fast for her mind to think about it. Her body was fully electric and a little bright beyond transparency, enough that her features couldn’t be seen. She ran through the back room through the next wall that was in her way.

The only thing sensible to do, in her mind, was to keep running around like a human flashlight looking for Paul until she found him and then … Well she’d deal with the “then” when it came to that. Already it had begun to go wrong. The sound of the alarm and the red lights flashing scared her, sending her body pulsing like a heart. Her fear, going beyond what she needed to help her body turn, now had triggered the odd sight she still had yet to understand.

The hallway she was in had changed, becoming a big tunnel of black and blue with mounds of alive little electric lights bouncing around everywhere; so strong in this building they seemed to be singing to Donna, calling her electric body’s senses to join them. Making her feel like she was running through the opposing forces of a magnet.

All this was happening as the sound of running got closer and closer behind her. She ran from the sound, panicking that if her vision was like this, she wouldn’t be able to recognize Paul even if she found him. She pushed her mind with all her might, and as she ran through a third wall, her vision slammed back to normal. The sudden change made her stop abruptly and catch her balance.

This room she’d run into was filled with wires and cables and big machines. Three of its walls were solid but the fourth one was partly made of glass so people on the outside could look in. Already she recognized the big red and yellow words of the Do Not Enter signs posted in the window to stop people without lead suits from coming in. This was one of the rooms she’d walked by on the field trips, the room with the dangerous power machines. The people who she’d seen working in this room always had looked like space men to her because of all the safety equipment they had to wear. Oh Gosh … I’m really in here, aren’t I?

That was when she realized she wasn’t alone. Standing across from her were two very scared looking people in lead safety suits, staring at her like she was a monster. After about ten seconds, they were throwing their hands into the air. Oh God, not good. You have to keep moving, Donna! she told herself before realizing she couldn’t move. That it wasn’t her vision changing that had stopped her. Something strong in this room was holding her body in place like … like she was the magnet now.

She tried to turn her head, but it seemed to only want to face the big machine in the middle of the room. As she pleaded with herself to break free of what was holding her still, her vision changed back to her black and blue vision, making her see what her body was feeling. The big machine in the middle of the room was so full of live electricity that the little bouncing lights were bending and stretching like she’d never seen them move before. Out of their core was a rainbow of lights, making her and all the darkness of the black and blue room seem like death compared to them. She willed her vision back to normal as she had in the hallway; seeing the room like she’d just seen it was too much.

She heard the sounds of many men yelling and calling out numbers she didn’t understand. They were running down the hall coming toward her. Her body screamed to be free. Then like a tidal wave, pure electricity spilled out of the machine coming at Donna’s body, wrapping around and pouring into her, knocking her down to her feet but then pushing her back up, like she had no control of herself. It lifted her up into the air, tying around her like a giant electric snake, shocking her, but in a way that didn’t hurt.

It was too intense, too much. Surely she was going to die any moment now. It was suffocating her. She could not survive this place. She looked out, seeing about ten guards slipping lead suits on and getting very weird looking guns ready, but not to save her from the electric hold this machine had on her. No, the guns were for her.

Donna surrendered. Letting the energy in the machine wrap around her and cross into her until her body felt so light that it was as if she wasn’t even there, and her head was dizzy. The men entered the room with their guns drawn toward her. This was it.

No, her mind screamed. No, I want to live!

That’s when her body took control. Somehow she used it to absorb all the electricity it was able to hold from the machine, and then pushed the rest away, breaking the machine’s hold on her. Then she was falling through the air and through the ground. She fell through layers of dirt and gravel, then through hard cement, and what lay underneath that were basement floors she kept falling through.

Had they shot her? Was this an invisible elevator to hell? Is that where she was going? No, she knew she was still alive when she felt her electric body hit the ground.

She landed standing, as if she hadn’t fallen all that way, but her dizziness kicked in, causing her to lose balance, and she was on her back, lying on the cold floor in the next second. She lay there for a moment, hearing alarms going off like crazy. She looked at her hands and saw them looking so much like two rays of energy, no humanity left in them at all.

She looked up and saw she was in a room made of glass with a tall ceiling, and outside the room was a big brightly lit hallway leading to more glass rooms. Oh God, where am I? She ran thought the glass wall down the hall and went through another glass room. All of them had doors with flashing red lights that frightened her. She was in over her head and she knew it. She had known it from the beginning. How was she going to find Paul? How was she ever going to find a way out of here?

The third glass room she ran into was surrounded by computer equipment, with a few small desks in the corner. She heard people running down the halls, and she ducked down behind one of the desks and hid. The door of the room she was in made a loud beeping noise as it opened. Four guards that looked similar to the ones she’d seen before upstairs piled into the room. These men didn’t have those weird looking guns, but that did not lessen her fear.

On all fours, Donna crawled through the desk, behind it and through a giant computer thing, making it pop, crackle, and explode as she passed through it and into another glass room. At the same time, all the lights in all the glass rooms started going on and off. Had she done that when she passed through that machine? Or was this meant to scare her? Either way, at least she felt a little more hidden on her hands and knees. The lights flashing made her transparent, incandescent body blend in a fraction more than she would have otherwise.

She kept crawling now, her body almost weightless and going faster then she could ever imagine she could crawl. She went from room to room to room, not able to do anything but keep moving.

 

  • * *

 

Randy

 

“There’s over ten different possibilities of what it could be right now.”

Randy, annoyed, listened to Lynn’s voice over his cell phone as he drove up to the power plant. It was practically 4:30 on a Saturday morning, and they were calling him because God forbid team 105 actually do something without him.

He walked, taking his time, through the main doors, the security guard not bothering to stop him for his entrance card. Good thing, because with the mood Randy was in, he’d definitely regret it. Randy walked toward the main hallway. “Whatever, I’m on my way. I take it Ryan’s there already,” he said on the phone to her bitterly.

Ryan had left right when he did.

“Yeah, he just got here, and don’t take the elevator. The guy is destroying a lot of our equipment on this little spree of his, and if they shut down I’m not coming to get you.”

Randy rolled his eyes and started down the stairs. “Can you please put someone on the phone that knows what they’re talking about!” he snapped at her.

“A fire broke out in one of the power supplier rooms he passed through. Don’t have the specifics yet but maybe you’ll meet someone besides me who can put you in your place,” she hissed.

“In your dreams, sweetheart.” He hung up the phone, now on the third lower level. He saw regular human guards and agents running around toward where the intruder must have gone, some armed with guns, others with tranquilizers. The lights were flashing on and off. The place was a mad house. Goofs, all of them, just gonna get in my way!

Lynn and their new team leader, Kent, were waiting for him. No doubt their other dimwitted precious team member had gone over there to help already, leaving Randy stuck with his girlfriend. Shoot me now!

“You couldn’t have woken up one of the actual REAL teams to do this?” Randy clamored at the guy. Kent had been training them for six months now and he acted like he was running the place. Randy could care less how much his father was paying him; this whole thing was a joke.

“Your father seems to think the three of you are ready,” Kent cockily said back. “Let’s see if you can put your power where your mouth is, 1051.”

“We both know my father wouldn’t allow his favorite to blindly hunt by himself unless he knew this intruder was some idiot amateur.”

“Shut up, Randy! If you ruin this for me I will make sure none of the cheerleaders hook up with you for the next month!” Lynn snapped at him excited for action.

“Oh, I’m really afraid now!”

Kent ignored them, listening to someone on his headset. “The two of you need to go now, it’s on this floor!” he ordered.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna had crawled through so many glass rooms, one after another after another. So many of the rooms were alike that she wondered if she was just running in circles. After these last ten she could no longer hear the sounds of screaming or men coming after her. Just the sounds of the alarms kept her company now.

She stopped, kneeling down, trying to take advantage of this desolated area. Have I lost them? With the lights still flashing wildly, it was hard to see until she was right next to something, lighting it up.

Two men came into the room. Donna froze, her body shaking. A taller bald one, dressed in a suit, from what Donna could tell, was talking loudly over the alarm to a skinnier man behind him Donna couldn’t make out. “Now you stay put and—” The lights came on, revealing Donna to them both.

Donna’s mind screamed for her to run, but her body stayed still, knowing it was too late. The bald man covered the man behind him as he pulled out a gun and shot her. Donna felt the small bullet go right through her, expecting to feel pain but instead only the speed of the tiny thing knocking her back. Four more shots were fired, each time Donna expecting to die, and each time only feeling the sensation of falling back as she struggled not to.

“Touch him! Touch him!” a voice from somewhere called out. Donna didn’t have time to understand; the shock of being shot at and the bullets trying to slam her down to the ground was enough to distract her. The bald man didn’t seem to be afraid of Donna, nor deterred by the fact that his bullets weren’t killing her. Instead, he was bent of firing till one did its job. Yet all the bullets just kept passing through her electric flesh.

“Touch him! Touch him now!” she heard the voice scream again. Was it calling out to her? Why did it sound so familiar? Then someone was jumping on the shooter’s back, making his shots fly out in totally different directions around the room. His bullets bounced off the glass walls, which must have been bullet proof.

“Touch him! Please, touch him!” the man straddling the shooter’s back was screaming at her over the sounds of the bullets. Donna looked up. The thinner guy that had been behind the shooter the whole time was Paul. Paul was saving her, again. When she’d come to help him. She did what he was telling her to do immediately. She pushed herself up and threw her arms on her shooter, careful not to touch Paul. Paul jumped off the man’s back the moment his gun started to fall out of his hands at Donna’s electrical touch. The man fell to the ground in pain, knocking himself out cold. She stood staring at the man, then back up at Paul. Their eyes locked in silence for the next second that passed by, seeming like forever.

“Don’t change back to normal, they see everything here!” Paul told her. She nodded, not saying a word. She’d found him, but what was she supposed to do next? Why couldn’t she be better at this stuff? If she had the powers of one of these soldiers, why didn’t it all just come natural to her?

“You came here for me?” he asked seeming to know the answer. “You shouldn’t have. Now they know you exist.”

“Rebecca can’t live without you,” Donna told him, as time seemed to speed back up again.

Before Donna was even done talking, Paul was ripping off the ID card that had been around the shooter’s neck and swiping it through the panel on the door. “Come on!”

She followed him as they ran down the hall. He went to another door a few rooms down and swiped the card through, then typed in numbers. He looked very afraid and unsure but the door opened with an annoying beep. This room, like so many others, was full of giant computers that covered an entire ten foot high glass wall from top to bottom.

Paul was at the computer right away, typing in codes.

“What are we doing?” she asked him, feeling dizzy. This was all happening to fast.

“I don’t think they know how far I hacked in; I’m going to try to do it again and plant a virus. Should erase all their footage from tonight and give us time to get out of here.” He typed away on the computer like crazy, as different screens kept popping up and disappearing before Donna could even read them. “You need to go! I have an access card so maybe I can get out now, maybe not, but together we’re dead.”

“You have to get out of here alive, Paul!” If she left him now, wouldn’t she be back to where they started before she even broke into this place?

“I know, but so do you! Trust me, more than our lives depend on it. You’ve given me enough. Now run!”

Run, run, Donna, run! There were those words again sending fresh adrenaline through her, making her anxious as she felt her body glow brighter. “Rebecca and Spencer are in the woods waiting for us,” Donna told him in a rush as her feet were already moving away from him.

Paul pulled his eyes away from the computer and looked at Donna for a second, as if about to say something, but then stopped himself. “Ok, go!”

Donna turned, running through the glass wall into the hallway. He’d made himself clear. He obviously understood all this a hundred times more then she did. If only he had the powers and not me. Four guards were coming her way, which meant they were coming Paul’s way too. Spencer’s words went through Donna’s head.

If anyone tries to hurt you, remember that you’re electricity! Donna! You’re electricity!

The bullets sailed into Donna as she changed directions and started toward the guards. The bullets speed and force were rippling through her, trying to slow her down but she was to weightless as she ran. The men looked more afraid than the bald man from before had, but Donna didn’t have time to think about it. They were trying to kill her, and Paul needed to get away. She ran into them, through them. They all fell to the ground. Some were screaming out like they’d been tasered, others were falling unconscious or maybe even … Donna kept running; whether she’d just killed people in order to escape or not, she didn’t have time to look back.

 

  • * *

 

Paul

 

Paul pressed enter, sending the last of the virus he’d downloaded off the web into the power plant’s computer system. It was something that could be easily stopped when being sent to the plant by some random hacker, but not so easily when the hacker was inside their main computer base at the plant and there was an electric girl running through it.

Installing it while bullets were being fired, knowing this was his last chance to escape this place, was not fun or easy at all. A part of him didn’t really think he could escape, but he knew now that, as much as it was a bad idea for everyone, he had to. Rebecca was out there waiting for him. He should have known she’d never just give up and leave it at him being taken; she was too wise and good of a person not to try something.

He had to get to her, to figure out a way to keep her safe. You’re a computer geek who can’t keep your own self protected! How do you expect to keep the girl you love safe also? a voice in his head mocked him, but adrenaline blocked out the thoughts as the power shut off completely in the entire plant. Maybe even the entire town. Of course the power plant was still full of power. He hadn’t shut down everything but the computer that distributed all the information he’d sent a virus to, causing the blackout, while all their files began erasing.

He pushed the door open. Everyone down on this floor was in motion. Paul barely stood out. Every scientist was arming up, slipping bulletproof vest on and taking cover. Clearly they had done drills for this sort of thing. Other people on computers were shouting over bullets being fired, trying to get the systems back and running. Paul had ten minutes tops to get out of here.

He started out the door, awkwardly tripping over the passed out guards, heading into the hallway. He had to get upstairs to the main floor and out a back exit. All while everyone else was after Donna.

 

  • * *

 

Spencer

 

For a while there had been nothing but static coming out of the cell phone Paul had wired. Then they had heard Donna’s voice, “You … get out … alive!” followed by more static and then Paul’s “Ok, go!” Then even more terror burned into Spencer as he heard the sounds of guns being fired come out of the phone next, a sound he had heard all to well before, when his stepfather first sent men after his mom when he was only a child.

There were some strained sounds of screaming in the background before the thing lost its connection again. Rebecca looked like she was on the verge of death. Her hand had automatically reached for Spencer’s as they first heard Donna’s voice. Now her nails were digging into his palms out of her raw fear. He got closer to her, wishing somehow he could make her feel better, while his body wanted to absolutely burst or do something, anything, to help his friends. This couldn’t be the end for them.

A thought occurred to him and he grabbed his cell phone, not knowing what else to do.

“What are you doing?” she asked him.

“Clearly they need a distraction if they’re going to get away!” he told her. He dialed nine-one-one. “Yes, we need the police, the fire department, and an ambulance in front of the power plant now!” he yelled into the phone at the operator. “There’s a huge fire, the entire place is burning to the ground, and my sister has asthma and is having a stroke! The fire’s coming closer! Help!” he screamed into the phone, making it up as he went along, then hung up. Rebecca stared at him. He wondered if that had been a terrible idea, but he had to try something. “If they’re trying to keep this under wraps it should be hard with half of our town showing up to rescue someone from a fire.”

“But they could trace your cell phone—”

“My cell phone’s not in my name,” he interrupted her. “It’s a throwaway, by the minute one, from the West Applegate mall. My mom and I can’t have cell phones in our names, just in case.”

Rebecca looked sympathetic and relieved. A tiny ounce of a smile came upon her face, approving of his decision. Spencer breathed out, putting his free hand on her shoulder. At least he had managed to do something right, he hoped. Now all they could do was wait. Wait for Paul and Donna to come, and whoever else would be behind them.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna ignored the woman who was screaming and ran around through the computers behind her, hearing them explode as she went through another glass wall. She was in a dark hallway and saw a staircase at the end of it leading up somewhere. She ran to the stairs as fast as she could, praying they would lead to the top floor so she could get out of there.

Even though the whole place was without power and dark already, the middle of the staircase as she approached was somehow darker then the rest of the stairs. Not an ounce of light from the top or bottom floor shone through. Even with her glowing body, it was hard to see. She heard guards coming down toward her, which made her stop. Before she could think to turn around, she heard footsteps coming from behind her as well. She couldn’t see them, but at any moment they were all going to be able to see her. She backed up against the staircase wall to see if one group would turn around, so she wouldn’t have too run through more men. Unfortunately, the darkness had made her back up too far. Before she knew what was happening, she was falling again, through the staircase wall. Behind it was nothing but the outside air. Donna kept falling …

 

  • * *

 

Paul

 

Paul ducked into a room as four guards ran past him. He was so thin and scrawny compared to the strong men running around with guns looking for the electric intruder. He headed up the stairs as the coast became clear. Once he got to the main floor, he saw two guards still positioned outside the stairway, talking on their walkie talkies in the dark. They looked at him, their hands near their guns just in case, though clearly they had pretty much judged him as not being a threat. The further up you go the less the people must know what this plant really does! After all, for all they knew Paul could be a shape shifter like Lynn. I need to get out of here!

“The thing’s still down there. It’s coming this way!” he yelled at them.

The guys looked at one another. One grabbed him, and the other nodded at his partner then headed down the stairs.

“We have to get out of the building. I heard them say the intruder might have a bomb, and if so, then … ” Paul lied, nervously rambling off all kinds of useless data he knew the guard could never understand. “ … we could approximately end up in 42,895 untraceable pieces.”

The guy looked unsure and tried to talk to someone on his walkie talkie. “I’ve got a kid here who said the building is going to explode,” he was saying.

“I’ve got to warn the main office, my mom works in there!” Paul lied again.

It was believable though, half of East and West Applegate worked here. The guy looked at Paul for a long moment then let him go and started back on his walkie talkie, deciding he had better things to do than babysit. Paul scattered off, not looking back. Ahead he saw an exit.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna was falling awkwardly. Not like she had before where she could land on her feet. She was tumbling in the air, feeling like she was drowning, though how she knew what that felt like was beyond her. She fell and fell and fell, and because she was so light, she was falling more slowly than normal. She looked above her and saw the sky through a half built ceiling made of pipes and things. She hit the floor, and though she had no strong pain, she felt what must have been this electric body’s version of an awful headache come on her as her vision strained for a moment. It was going back and forth from normal to her electric vision uncontrollably. She closed her eyes, wanting it to stop.

After a couple of minutes, she opened her eyes and she could see normally again. Still feeling like her electric body had been thrown for the loop, she willed herself back to being normal again; feeling the heat evaporate inside her, replaced by the heaviness and coldness of being human. She looked at her hands. Her body was sore and numb, like she’d been running for weeks. Yet not a scratch was on her. Donna slowly stood up, feeling like a baby deer standing for the first time, and looked around.

She was in the new construction site that was being added on to the power plant. It was just tall stone walls right now, really tall, five or six stories high tall. The ground under her was still dirt, filled with mountains of giant pipes and ditches and building equipment. The half built ceiling let the dim birth of sunrise shine through certain parts of this place, while other parts were enclosed in darkness and shadows, making her feel like she was in a torn up graveyard. She searched in front of her but didn’t see a door, and she didn’t think her body could turn right now to look further. She was in too much pain.

She looked down at herself and felt terrified. All she was wearing was her bra, torn up pants and running shoes; everything else had disintegrated. Then her situation again rose from a ten to a one hundred when she heard someone else inside this tomb with her. She ducked and hid, shaking and covered in dirt, behind one of the giant human sized pipes that was halfway into the ground.

Then she heard sounds of things around her being thrown around, and she felt fear like no other when she saw a giant stone-like thing being thrown against the wall so hard it shattered. Whatever was strong enough to throw it was clearing a path to come toward her.

 

  • * *

 

Paul

 

Paul felt like the sun was his enemy. Its slow rising was revealing his staggered figure running through the open fields, with only coldness as his company so far. The biggest bang of relief swelled up in him as he made it to the three houses in between the woods and the power plant. Already in the distance, he saw Rebecca, like an angel with her tiny fairy-like body and red curly hair. She stepped out of the trees and ran toward him, meeting him in his arms. After feeling her close to him and knowing she was ok, the next moment all the adrenaline left his body and he fell to the ground.

“Paul!” she screamed. “Paul, are you ok!”

He felt someone help his limp self up and turned and saw Spencer. Rebecca got his other side and they started walking into the woods.

“Where’s Donna?” Spencer asked him.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna heard another big thing being thrown and tried to move but found she was frozen where she hid. Turn! she told herself. Turn! You have to turn! She knew with how weak her body was she’d never be able to run fast enough unless her body was changed and lighter. Turn! Please turn!

The pipe in front of her was starting to be torn from the ground and lifted away. Her fear, which was paralyzing her, started to quickly change tactics and obey her mind. She felt her body start to fall asleep and she took off, running toward another pipe thing, not sure she’d be fully transparent by the time she hit it.

Luckily her transformation was just in time as she passed through, and she heard a roar as something from behind came after her just as fast as she was moving. She got to the other wall in a second but hit it hard instead of going through it. She felt pain, and looked at her transparent weakly glowing arms and tried again. No! She wasn’t going through. She tried again for the third time and felt the pain as if her hands were solid and hitting something hard even though she was still electric. No, no, this isn’t right. Why aren’t I going through this wall? Please! Please body! Go through!

She had no choice. Her heart was racing and her body was blinking like a flickering light bulb on speed. She was trapped. She turned around and absolutely froze at the sight of who was behind her. It was Ryan. The world stopped …

Ryan Applegate stood only a few feet away from her. His shirt was ripped and his blue eyes were wild. He looked like he was going to rip her to shreds alive.

 

 

Chapter Eleven

 

Spencer

 

Spencer dragged Paul a couple feet into the woods. “Where’s Donna?” he asked Paul again.

Paul looked like he had been through hell; he was full of sweat and his hair was a mess. The skin around his eyes was sunken in and red, like it might wither away. He had a giant patch on his neck where a wound must have been, and his clothes were absolutely wet like he’d been dowsed with hot, sticky water.

“You two,” Paul started weakly, “You two need to go in case they come here. I’ll wait for Donna.”

“I’m not leaving!”

“You mean she didn’t get out with you?” Spencer asked as Rebecca was speaking.

“She could still make it out. She, she has to make it out,” Paul rambled, not sounding the least bit reassuring.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Ryan’s shirt was ripped. His muscles that at one time had looked so attractive to Donna, in this moment looked deadly hard, strong, and bulging. It was like an animal was looking at her, not a human being. She was about to scream, but some inner part of her stopped her from revealing her voice to him. Whispering that he didn’t see her as Donna, but as an electric person glowing too brightly to recognize. She ignored that logic, it wasn’t making sense to her now.

She turned to run, but felt him in front of her before the next second had passed. He grabbed her shoulders. Electricity visibly began pouring into his arms, zapping him, making his eyes only rage with more anger as he threw her across the building site. She fell through a cement tub big enough for a human to walk through and landed inside it. That was only the beginning …

 

  • * *

 

Ryan

 

Ryan’s shirt had ripped further as he crawled over the pieces of wall to get to the intruder. He was bleeding from a nail that had punctured him, and then when he’d picked up the trespasser, he’d felt an electric shock painful enough for him to throw the guy somewhere.

The guy had fallen right through, literally through, a bunch of the giant pipes that hadn’t been put into the ground yet. So now he’d have to find him and somehow drag him back to base while being shocked, without all the ambulances and police outside the plant seeing. This should be fun.

Ryan took off his shirt, knowing he’d be able to use his senses better; they felt alive and more animal than human, wanting to hunt. Every bone and cell in his body was fixed on stopping this intruder. A real mission, finally, and right in his own town.

He heard movement, and as he threw pipe after pipe that lay in his path, all of a sudden he smelt the flesh of a human nearby. The trespasser was back in his human state. Ryan moved more quickly, knowing now that all he’d have to do was weaken him. Then he could drag him back to the plant as a human. That is, after finding the discipline not to finish this right now.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna was human again. She hadn’t meant to turn back; after going through a couple of tunnels transparently, all of a sudden she turned back out of exhaustion. Her body couldn’t do it, didn’t want to do it. She was running on empty, and a monster wearing the face of the boy she had once considered her best friend was coming after her.

Tears were in her eyes as she struggled to stand, hiding behind a piece of wall, breathing heavily, and trying to find strength. Any other time she would have had to fight her mind in order to turn back to being human, and if she had wanted to turn electric, all she would have had to do was be afraid, but now she was just a human girl. Her hurt body could not summon all her power. Whatever thing Ryan was that was coming after her, she knew he was going to kill her. The way he’d thrown her, his strength and his roar, the sounds of him searching for her now … He was a ferocious beast, and she a weak, scared little girl who wanted her mother.

She closed her eyes again, praying she’d turn. Pushing her brain to. Trying and trying and trying and only feeling her dense body in answer. She was hearing all kinds of things crashing and being thrown around her. Ryan’s footsteps were like elephants, shaking the ground as he got near.

She closed her eyes and tried to turn electric again. Praying to God she’d transform. Then, right as she saw his shadow coming upon her she pushed her body as hard as she could and felt her molecules bounce and heat up inside, allowing her to go through the piece of wall she was leaning against. She ran through a big pile of stuff he had just made when clearing a path to find her, her body still weak. He was going to have to clear another path to get to her again. She’d have to escape before then. She saw far in the distance a bright space in between the great half built walls with more light shining through it. A way out!

She ran, hearing him behind her, but then she heard nothing at all. Why wasn’t she hearing the sounds of a path being cleared? She kept running; she had to use her light electric self to get to that exit, he was behind her so she had to … Then he was over her, at least fifty feet high in the air. Jumping, no, soaring over her and landing on the wall. Sticking to it like something from a vampire movie or a comic book or … no, this was different. He was more animal. His posture was almost canine. She stopped in her tracks, deeper in shock than she thought she could go. He looked at her again with that hard, determined face, and she ran the other way.

He jumped down onto her, knocking her to the ground, roaring again in pain as he struggled to hold her down. A sick déjà vu hit Donna, making her insides scream. Even though she was electric, her deep human instincts to survive seemed to burst to the surface from out of her core. She grabbed onto him as he was squashing her, kicking and sticking her electric nails into him, watching electricity pour into his body over and over again.

Like a machine, he just squeezed her tighter and tighter as she pushed more electricity in him, neither one of them willing to give up. His eyes, an unholy blue and in deep pain, seemed to tell her he’d never lose. Was that also another one of his powers? No, the unspoken threat was a lie.

After another ten seconds of being tortured by her electrocuting him, he let go and rolled off. She crawled away from him frantically, getting up and seeing him lying there; his chest bulging, his stomach going up and down, and his tan body sweating. Donna herself was ten seconds away from turning back into a human. She had pushed so much energy into him and she had never done that before. Now she felt almost empty.

Her vision switched again, without her wanting it to, turning the already dark place into a black and blue mess. Before she could begin to panic, her eyes were pulled in the direction of the construction equipment left in the middle of the site. Inside the dark machines were millions of the little electric currents screaming to her. Letting her know they were just as alive as she was, alive and trapped. A new energy seemed to come over Donna, and before she had thought it through, she was running toward them. Needing to be nourished, she grabbed onto the first big thing she could reach. Its electric current raced to her as she willed it out of the machine. It flowed into her like she was a living battery, making her body lighter, taking away her feelings of weakness and exhaustion. She kept growing brighter and brighter till all the energy stored up in the machine was gone. It was a part of her now and at her disposal.

She pushed her vision back to normal, barely trying this time. She needed to get out of here. She turned back to the only way out she had been able to see. Ryan lay in front of it, already slowly catching his breath and starting to get up. She’d never make it past him running. She turned back to the construction machines, moving quickly. She wasn’t sure what she was doing, but right now their energy was her only ally. She climbed up on the tallest bulldozer-looking-thing with a huge crane on it, knowing that her time to do anything would soon be over.

Ryan was almost on his knees now, recovering. What do I do now? The bulldozer was off, with no key in it. Still, maybe she could use it as a shield somehow if she could just turn it on. Her dad would know how to start this thing without a key. Gosh, why wasn’t she smart like that? She pushed her mind, a fresh wave of panic and will to live breathing into her.

She made herself see in her weird electric way. Again everything flashed into a black and blue darkness. The energy in the machine’s battery was slowly moving and clustered together like thousands of ants stuck in a cage. She could suck them out into her, but she had energy already. She needed this machine. It was big and strong and powerful, just like the beast who was trying to kill her. She looked at the dark blue keyhole to start the machine and placed her hand on it. She knew enough to know that all the key did was allow the car to start up. Maybe she could do that on her own. You have to do this, Donna! She pressed down into the machine, her hand slightly going into it, and started to have the energy suck out of the battery toward her.

Time was going by fast, and she didn’t have time to concentrate, but she had to. The cluster of energy sang out as it happily moved in a string approaching her, lighting up the machine on its way. She moved her hand away before it could meet her. Now all the energy could do was feed the machine, and it did. Donna heard the machine turn on and she pushed her vision back to normal.

Donna jumped into the bulldozer’s seat and started to move her foot on to the gas, looking up with her normal vision again. Each time the change jarred her, making her feel shaken. She saw Ryan moving from his knees, and for a minute, Donna couldn’t move. His body looked like her Ryan; the boy who had bought her running shoes when she couldn’t afford them. Who ran with her every school day, the one who had been the first to ever kiss her … but then he looked up. All of her memories and wishful thinking that he could be that boy were torn away from her like a limb being ripped off.

Seeing her in the machine sent him roaring loathsomely, a warning to her that he wasn’t hurt nearly badly enough to let her pass. His muscles bulged, and his veins stuck out as he began to move his body in a crouching position. Taking a final deep breath, seeing her death in his mutilating eyes, Donna’s mind screamed at her. You can’t let him get you! A piece of brick that his hand was gripping shattered into dust. Donna would be next. No!

She slammed on the gas, driving toward him and running him over. The machine was feeling like it was going to flip as Ryan struggled underneath it. Next thing Donna knew, it was slamming into part of the wall as she exited the building on it, the sunlight blinding her. The big crane finished the wall off, knocking it in half and causing it to crumble over behind her.

Ryan was beginning to stand, even after being run over, as the wall crushed him. Donna kept going straight ahead toward the open field, needing to get away, far away. Though after a minute her fear whispered like a devil that Ryan was behind her. She looked into her rear view mirror at the pile of broken wall that had buried him. She was free. Did I … did I kill him? She turned her head to look back, unable not to. The pile was still, desolate, but then after seconds of no movement a hand burst from the top of the pile like in a zombie movie, making Donna jump in her seat and look forward. She had to get out of here fast.

My God, he’s invincible! Couldn’t the machine go any faster? Donna could probably get further with her electric speed but she wasn’t ready to leave this machine yet. Somehow she felt safer in it.

 

  • * *

 

Danny

 

Mr. Applegate seemed utterly calm as the entire plant scrambled to get everything back up and running. A virus had gone into all their systems, erasing everything. All they had to go on for security were communications through cell phones and radios. A scary looking Kent stood over Danny’s computer chair arguing with Mr. Applegate. “I can have fifty of our best agents and a 102 out there in two minutes and—”

“Our 105’s will be fine,” Mr. Applegate interrupted him.

Kent looked like the veins in his forehead were going to pop. “But, sir, this isn’t procedure, if the intruder gets away … ”

“You’ll just have to see to it that our 105’s don’t let the intruder escape,” Mr. Applegate taunted. “This inconvenience should prove to be an interesting test.”

Danny tried his best to ignore the men, wishing they could find a different place to argue, while he tried to help retrieve the footage of how the prisoner got in here, though he feared it was too late and all gone. At this rate, they wouldn’t get the cameras up and going for hours; whatever that young kid had done it seemed permanent.

“They should need no more then twenty men to assist them,” Mr. Applegate said, giving Kent his final orders.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna rode in the machine, hearing sirens from somewhere far away, back from where she’d come from. Her heart was beating so fast and all she wanted was to get as far away as possible. After traveling about a mile, she saw two black Hummers in the distance driving up and stopping near the three houses she needed to get to. Her first instinct was to turn around, but she knew she’d only find Ryan behind her. No, she had to keep going even if it meant going through these people. She’d been through so much; could it really get worse? She didn’t want to know the answer. She felt charged, afraid but ready.

Spencer and Rebecca! The men weren’t very far away from where she’d left them. Oh God! She hoped they’d run away in time. Guards were already coming out of the cars, they were too far away to see at this point, but she was sure they had guns. There had to be at least twenty of them.

The machine started to get slower and slower, the energy she had sucked out of the battery would soon not be enough. She was too worried to think about sucking more energy out of it again. Panicked thoughts started in her head. They’ll all be shooting at me! What if there are more like Ryan waiting? Did Paul make it out? Where would I run to? Why am I hearing ambulances? Is Ryan coming behind me, to hold me down while these men take me? Will I ever see my father again? What will my godfather tell him?

The men were spreading out, each at least ten feet apart. She could see them clearly now as her machine came to a stop. They were all armed and ready, trapping her. It was overwhelming and unreal. It was like she was a deadly criminal or something. As she stood on the still machine, a giant ring of fire jumped up out of the grass, circling out around her, only a few feet in front of the men. It scared her as much as seeing Ryan’s hand pop out of that pile had. The circle was very large, like it was mapping out a building being built around her, about twenty feet out, to be trapped in. Something else was coming. These men were just here to watch. If she was human, she’d definitely be in tears. How could they do this, how could this many people be trying to hurt her? Would this nightmare ever end?

 

  • * *

 

Paul

 

Paul held Rebecca close to him as they hid in the woods watching helplessly from afar as twenty agents jumped out of two big black Hummers and ran toward Donna, forming a barrier so she couldn’t pass.

“No! This can’t happen,” Rebecca cried into his chest. He held her tightly, positioning her so she couldn’t see anymore. “We can’t let them hurt Donna,” she mumbled, reading his mind. She was beside herself because Donna had been her best friend, and she had brought her here to save Paul.

Paul was seeing a bigger picture. Donna was innocent, untrained, and oblivious to the secrets of the plant. She could be the equivalent of the stone that hit Goliath’s head destroying him, but if they discovered her identity, none of that could come to pass. Even if she escaped and was on the run, they’d still always be ready for her.

“Ok, Einstein, I take it you have a plan right?” Spencer demanded.

Donna was coming on a giant crane, fully changed and looking like nothing more than electricity shaped like clay into the outline of a human. No one would know she was a helpless girl who’d never fought before. Her machine came to a stop and a ring of fire circled around her and the machine. The flames that encircled her rose up in the air, making it hard for Paul to see. The circle was big enough that a football team could fit inside it. It acted as a wall, separating her from the men, as another tall muscular figure walked toward it, the fire parting for him only. Whether it was meant to scare her or if the soldier suspected she had help, she was now completely out of their reach.

Paul broke free from Rebecca’s grasp.

“Wait, what are you doing?” Spencer yelled to Paul.

“There is a soldier that’s coming, one that’s stronger and will have more power and insight than any of them. One that’s seen great leaders rise and fall and plans to do better, ” Paul told him. “This is the only chance we’ll ever have to find free soldiers like Donna and keep their secret safe until then. People like Mr. Applegate will only turn her into his own weapon.”

“Hold on, buddy, the only thing I’m worried about is the here and now. We’re only sixteen for God’s sake! We get Donna out because she’s our Donna!” Spencer argued.

They both just looked at each other, unsure. Paul knew he had to do something, he couldn’t let her die. “They don’t know about you two! You need to go!” Paul snapped at Spencer.

Spencer was about to start his protest over again.

“It’s up to you to keep them safe!” Paul told him. He grabbed Rebecca and kissed her hard. “I would have given up everything to see you again right now. Your gonna save the world one day, Rebecca. Just make sure you live for me.” Then he ran … ran as fast as he could, toward Donna.

 

  • * *

 

Spencer

 

Spencer saw Paul run off, and Rebecca started after him. He grabbed her; she was too tiny and fragile to go near that fire.

“I’ll help him! You run into the woods! You heard what he said, they’re watching your house. Go to Donna’s and wait for us.” He faced her, and the look in her eyes was something he knew he’d never forget. It was something he couldn’t put into words. It was past fear and terror, something deeper and more gut wrenching, mixed with salty tears. She looked so tiny and helpless. She just stared at him now, not moving. “Rebecca, he wants me to protect you, but I can’t help him, and Donna, and you all at once. They need me right now.”

“I’ll stay and help. You can use me.”

“If you and I both stay and both of us die, who’s gonna be alive to help Paul and Donna? You have to run now and get to a safe place! If not, we’re all dead anyway!”

She nodded finally, looking like she’d been stabbed, but her brain seemed to be racing already with a plan he was sure she’d come up with, once she got home, for their escape. Yeah, if we make it that far.

“If something happens to me, Rebecca, make sure my mom is safe.” He wondered if those words would be his last.

“We’re all going to live Spencer. We have to. I’ll be getting things ready, all you guys have to do is make it to Donna’s.”

“My, Becca, you never cease to amaze me,” he repeated, then turned, hoping she’d do what she had said and run.

 

  • * *

 

Randy

 

Randy had left Lynn back at the construction site where his brother’s speaker had gone dead. This was turning out to be much more extreme than he’d been warned. Of course he’d been right about everything; Lynn and Ryan weren’t ready.

He’d trapped the guy inside a circle of fire. It was time to finish this and then find that Paul kid before the nerd got himself killed. Whoever this intruder was, Randy was going to make him pay for having to clean up his mess.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

Donna could only hide inside the machine for a few moments longer. All this to kill me! She felt very alone, almost as alone as the day she’d woken up abandoned in the forest after the accident. Only this was a different kind of loneliness. All she had was her electric body to get her through this. She’d thought all she’d have to do was get through the men, running through them and perhaps never stopping, but then the fire had come. It was like a caustic portrayal of hell had arrived, designed to solely take her soul.

She held on tight to the machine, letting its remaining energy flow into her, enough to make her lighter and faster then she’d ever been. She felt too full, like she’d drunk too much water but still kept sucking more into herself anyway. Then she jumped down and took a few steps forward; she could still run behind the machine if need be.

Next the fire parted, and a figure walked through. It was a man, looking like a god of fire, the flames closing in behind him as if he controlled them with his will. He was tall, muscular, and all too familiar. Unlike Ryan, his features weren’t twisted and animal like. No, from afar he seemed like the same bully she’d known all her life, walking toward her like she was a small child and he wanted her lunch money. Only difference was he seemed to have a different kind of strength to back him up, a power that was all too deadly. Randy Applegate was the next soldier here to take her.

Donna stayed still. Every new threat was like a new blow to what her old life had been, meant to rub in the fact that it was all a big lie, but better Randy than having to face Ryan again. At least with him Donna could expect pain, yet not have her heart eaten alive by it. Not emotionally, anyway.

Electricity was coming out of the machine behind Donna, and it looked like it was electrocuting her. When in reality she, without thinking about it, was siphoning it out, out of fear. She was doing it without even touching it. She’d done so many new things today, but was any of it enough?

Could she really compete with high school bullies who had powers that the devil should only possess? Randy’s eyes were lit red and annoyed. He saw the machine feeding her, and with a slight movement of his eyes, it burst up into flames behind her, exploding. The guards ran, ducking for cover and backing up. Donna covered her head out of instinct, her scream covered by the painful sound of the explosion. Debris and pieces of metal flew through her, their speed moving her like the bullets had, making her stumble and shake, her body pulsing.

Donna looked up at him. He was staring at her hands. Donna looked down and in them was a small ball of electricity, not touching her electric skin but floating above her fingers. It was the extra bit she had sucked out but couldn’t fully absorb or hold. Her body was pushing it out, ready to hurt someone before they came close enough to try and touch her. Donna felt like an untrained athlete. Like she was being forced to play flag football at school, having the ball passed to her with a hundred mean bullies racing to rip her flag off. Only this flag was her life.

Randy took another step forward, about to say something, when she instinctively threw the ball of electricity at him. He jumped out of the way, but not before a part of it hit his arm. Randy jittered and screamed in pain. Donna just stood there in shock. What did she just do, and how did she do it? Randy looked back at Donna with angry burning eyes, and the next thing she knew the ring of fire was coming in on her fast, like she was stuck in a burning building and the fiery walls were coming down.

The fire swallowed her, so large and powerful that she was but a morsel trapped inside it. It not only wrapped around her, holding her down, but it came up through her feet and shoulders, alive on her insides. It surrounded her heart, crushing it. It was too hot, too much, but then the strangest thing started to happen. Her electric body’s insides began to fight back. Containing the fire that was inside her, using its heat as if it were cleansing her. Her body felt like it was so pure it could float away. The fire on the outside seemed to be the only thing holding her down. She slowly stepped through it, feeling like her body had to eat and digest each part of flame that came into her.

Her body, working to transfer the fire into energy, opened up a new consciousness in her mind. She didn’t feel like Donna Young anymore, she felt like someone else. When she was fully out of the flames, she was only about ten feet away from Randy. Hovering above his hands, dancing over his fingertips, were shreds of more live fire, very similar to how Donna had held the ball of electricity. So he was somewhat like her, unlike Ryan, who had been like something entirely different.

She knew the fire wouldn’t hurt her now, or at least not burn her. It could only slow her down. Yet somehow Randy seemed just as threatening. He’d figured something out she hadn’t yet, a plan forming in his mind. Sparks of new electricity made from Donna’s body that had digested Randy’s own flames, sparked out of her fingers. I’m getting out of here!

He ran toward her, and Donna barely had to move; her electric fingers zapped him and he screamed out. Then he twisted his body and pushed a fist full of fire into her stomach. Donna had been wrong. The fire could hurt her. She felt violated, he was doing what he’d done before, sending fire into her but with his own human hands. She pushed him away, feeling a different kind of physical agony. Her body, like a machine, began absorbing and changing the new fire that had been put inside her, sending sparks of electricity popping out of her hands and lighting some of the grass on fire. Randy smiled, using this moment of her electrical digestion to send the small fires blazing up, not touching her, but making her duck. She couldn’t afford to be in the fire again. It felt good afterwards, but until then it was paralyzing.

“You think because you’re an Electrolite you can get away? You think you have the advantage because we didn’t see you coming?” Randy barked at her, once again becoming the bully of the playground, hell’s playground. The fires on the field roared around him, following him as he walked right next to her. “Electrocute me all you want, I’m just getting started!”

His words felt like claws in her back. Out of Donna’s hands again another ball of electricity was growing; her body was doing too much, and she had to get rid of it. She pushed it out toward him, more to get the fire inside her to die out than to even think about defending herself. This time he was ready, moving around her. Not with super speed like Ryan had, but still quickly enough. Randy’s concentration on the fire inside her just got worse. It was bursting through her shoulders, more and more flames appearing out of thin air, it pushed her further down into the ground. Randy knew now that his fire made her slower, that her body had to work to convert it, giving him more and more time to conquer her. “If I find out you’ve hurt my brother,” he continued on, as if he needed to talk to control his anger. “You’ll wish I’d killed you.”

The fire in her gut flared up ten times in size. It rose up through her more than several feet in the air. Step out of it, Donna, use it like you did before! she told herself, the voice in her head sounding more like a mixture of Brook and her new self, than of Donna Young. It was a stronger person’s voice, but yet it felt like it was being beaten. She tried to crawl forward on her knees, but every movement felt like it was a distraction from her body converting the fire.

She pushed with all her might, half moaning as she crawled one step’s distance, looking up into her bully’s eyes. He made the fire even more intense, kicking her back to shaky stillness. Maybe if he knew it was me, I’d have a moment of freedom, an extra second to run? Unlike Ryan, Randy still seemed like Randy, only with power; but she couldn’t turn back to being human; her body was too busy. The other guards were moving in closer. She hadn’t noticed that a van had arrived only a few feet away from her. Out of the van came three men with some kind of a cage they held together in their hands.

“Why are there only three of you?” Randy demanded with his eyes still locked on Donna. He was concentrating hard on this, she realized, his eyes full of flames of bitterness, more for these men than for his own prisoner.

“Your father says this should be more than enough for the 105’s to handle.”

Randy didn’t answer the men, but his anger for them wasn’t hidden from Donna, who felt another blast of flames erupt within her. Donna had become his own personal punching bag.

It was amazing how clearly she could think, see, and hear right now while her body was so busy and working hard for control; the fire clearing her head. She pushed her hands down hard into the ground sending electricity through it. The electric rays like snakes slithered over to the men, sending small shocks into them. Their faces seemed pained, but not the least bit surprised. They understand me. These men probably know more about me than I do myself, these three strangers … she thought. All her fears, the old Donna Young, seemed to be far off somewhere, away, somewhere deep inside, hiding safely while this more observant electric self was soaking every moment in.

Then she heard new sounds, sounds of someone running. Donna seemed to hear it first, in her alert state, before anyone else did. She moved her eyes toward it, unable to move her head. Paul, seeming so innocent and out of place among these demons, was running toward not her, but Randy. He was shouting, and the moment Randy looked up his concentration was half lifted. Donna was then able to more easily digest the fire without new fire being there to meet her. With her attention still alert on what was happening, she was able to take the tiniest step toward freedom.

“What the … ” Randy cursed, seeming shocked yet looking at Paul like he was a crazy fool. Not that in this moment Donna could disagree. What is Paul doing? This was too dangerous. He was too fragile. What was he thinking? Then the new, stronger voice in Donna’s conscious answered her calmly as if it was obvious. He’s here to save you, Donna. He’s going to sacrifice himself.

Her old mental voice, the little afraid girl she had been before Randy’s fire had gotten to her, came rushing back in her mind to meet the new one. No! Paul, no! Stop, run away! Randy was making a fist with one hand while motioning for the guards to stay away, but his message wasn’t heard. Paul ran right into Randy as the first shot was fired.

“No, stop, you can’t take … ” Paul was saying, as a bullet scratched against his shoulder.

“Stop it, don’t shoot … ” Randy was moving now toward Paul, ready to take him down while screaming to the guards. They wouldn’t listen to him. Two more shots were fired, these two entering into Paul as he and Randy’s bodies clashed. Paul’s body already falling into Randy, unable to knock Randy down; instead he twisted and fell on to the field.

Paul was still yelling for them not to hurt Donna, who was out of the fire now. Her alert self was still lost in seeing everything in a way she had never seen the world before while her old self was so lost, angry, and emotionally beaten by seeing this boy being shot. Her hands, lost in that emotion, were raised and a ball of electricity was there before she knew it. She barely flickered her wrist, and it was flying out, hitting the shooters. This in turn sparked more shooters to pull out their guns and shoot at her, sending another bullet sloppily into Paul while the other ones came through her, unable to even jar her this time.

“Put your guns down!” Randy was screaming at them. The moment he looked away from Paul, not knowing what to do, and onto the guards, they were on fire, her electricity not needed anymore. Randy looked up at Donna. She was only three feet away from him now. He was an angry wall in the way of her helping her dying friend, flames levitating in his palm.

“You two are working together!” Randy’s fire shot out like a hose coming for Donna, but she moved too fast this time, it didn’t touch her. She ran around Randy, kneeling next to Paul. She tried to force herself back to humanity, her body starting to become opaque so she could touch him. She wanted to drag him away from here and find a way to help him. Somehow she had to.

“No,” Paul whispered weakly, tears in his eyes, tears of an eighteen-year-old boy being robbed of his life. “I’m done now, I can feel it.”

Donna was still at his side, paralyzed by his words. In her head she was crying too, this body unable to let her show it. How could this be real, how could life do this?

“There was little more I could do, anyway. It’s up to you guys now to stop them,” his words were quiet and weak, losing life. “There are so many different forces out there, all blind to what’s coming. I know, I know you’ll be a part of the ones left to stop it, but, only if … ” Donna couldn’t understand his mumbling anymore. He was speaking too low and his skin was growing so pale.

Randy was behind Donna now, but he wasn’t trying to stop her. The guards around them were screaming and other loud new noises were joining them, but all that seemed so far away. Paul’s last words seemed to only stop time around them, while everywhere else was motion and chaos.

“ … but please … ” Now his words were louder, a new light in Paul giving him strength to ask this. “Protect her for me.” His eyes were alive as he said the word “her,” and then he didn’t seem to see Donna anymore. He seemed to be lost in a memory. The look in those eyes made Donna feel desperate and helpless. Her hand, just her hand and no other part of Donna, turned back to a human hand made of flesh as she touched his lightly, afraid it would shatter. He was still lost somewhere as he grabbed it a little. Donna’s observant self who was merely a whisper now, told her he was grabbing for someone else.

Rebecca … Donna was sure in Paul’s mind it was Rebecca holding his hand. She was the “her,” his world, the one he wanted Donna to protect. All this from the time the first guard had fired a bullet to now, as Paul lay here, felt like at least minutes had gone by. When really, it all had happened in seconds. Then the last drop of life left Paul and he died.

 

  • * *

 

Spencer

 

Everything had kept going from bad to worse, from insane to impossible by the second. Spencer barely had time to process it all. He was going to help Paul, he wasn’t sure how, but he was, but then before Spencer could blink Paul had been shot. He froze, and absolutely wet himself like a toddler. He’d seen people get shot, he and his mother both were almost killed by guns when he was only a child. So why was this different?

Because this was Paul and Donna being shot at, and the world wasn’t suppose to turn out this way. Donna had gone to Paul’s side, but as the next second passed Spencer saw him grow still. Spencer knew it then. He wasn’t near enough to really tell, yet he just knew, Paul was dead. These people had killed him.

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

The world seemed to end, and then time sped up, Donna’s other electric arm reached out to hold Paul, to somehow retrieve the soul that had left, but then electricity was pouring into him and Donna pulled away. Oh God, I’m hurting Paul! Her human hand was feeling for the pulse it was unable find. You can’t hurt the dead, Donna, her observant voice gently whispered. Then the sound of sirens, coming to stop the fires, got louder, and two more Hummers filled with guards were on the way.

You need to run, Donna! the voice told her. Anger took over. Paul just died, died for me! She turned to Randy who already had fire in his hands. Her alert self seemed to try to tell her something but Donna refused to listen. She was completely electric and glowing bright. A ball of electricity was forming in her hands, growing bigger and bigger as the new guards were coming behind Randy toward her. Donna threw the ball with all her might right at Randy. It was too big just for him; its force, like a small bomb, sent him and all the men flying backwards. Then Donna ran for her life.

 

  • * *

 

Spencer

 

The electrical person Donna had become had let off a blast of electricity so large it was like Spencer had seen a bomb go off. He’d ducked under the bushes for cover and when he looked up Donna was running into the woods.

Left alone, survival took over Spencer next. He knew he could not run out now without being noticed, but if he stayed in this bush he’d certainly die. So he quickly crawled into the porch of the small house he was near. The sliding glass door had been left unlocked. The old lady who owned the house had probably never locked it a day in her life. This was suppose to be a boring small town, after all. Yeah, till a few months ago, when the already unsafe world ran amok!

“God, I’m in hell!” Spencer whispered to himself.

In the dark, smelly house Spencer stood, his mind racing. They would surely find him in here soon enough. The phone had been ringing, the machine picked up: “Ruth, this is Wilma. I heard there are three fires near you out there. Not sure if you’re back from visiting the grandkids yet but just wanted to make sure you’re all right.”

Spencer sat on the bed for a long moment in the dark, hiding and ignoring the message machine. Hiding was something he understood, something he was used to. He had in the back of his mind always resented his mom for wanting to hide, when the boy in him wanted to fight like one of his heroes on TV. All those fantasies were gone; having to watch his best friend and classmate become the heroes and one of them not survive was just … numbing. Paul, they killed Paul! his head screamed. This is life, Spencer, this is the real world where bad guys kill people! You knew that when you first started through the forest. Yeah, he had, but when he had sent Rebecca off, he was sure he was the one that was going to die. He could just feel it. Then Paul was out there before he could make a decision about what to do. He should have just blindly run behind him.

Spencer crawled on the floor and watched out the small dusty window as golf carts full of more men in suits were coming. There were at least fifteen guards being hauled into ambulances. EMT’s must have been trying to resuscitate Paul. A man had those paddle things in his hands, but after a moment, he just shook his head. Someone already had a white cloth to put over his body, more reality to prove he was dead. They’d really killed him. Paul was dead and life as anyone had ever known it was surly over.

 

  • * *

 

Randy

 

Randy pushed the EMT that was coming to help away. “Get the hell away from me!” he yelled, furious. He walked toward one of the agents who was awake and on a stretcher while his EMT was giving more immediate attention to others. “You shot him! You all shot him!” he yelled.

Yeah, Paul was a dork, and after yesterday Randy thought he was a freak, but he was still powerless. He hadn’t had a gun in his hand. He certainly wouldn’t have been a threat to Randy. All they had to do was let Randy knock the guy out cold, and they’d have had their prisoner by now, and Paul would be alive. Randy had helped yet another “innocent until proven guilty” person die. This was his life, the weak dying to the strong.

Randy’s anger flared and he felt like he was going to set the man in front of him on fire and fought himself not to. His eyes turned into flames, and he glared down at the pathetic man twice his age.

“Your father ordered it, sir. He said shoot to kill,” the man panicked. “He said he couldn’t afford anyone escaping here, that the police were on the way.”

Randy left the man and walked away. He walked fast and felt all his anger and sorrow flare up inside him. He was a curse. His life was a curse. He’d been trained to kill and capture, and even when he wasn’t trying, person after person died in front of him anyway.

The moment he got far enough away from the police and fire trucks, he sent the field around him into flames. This wasn’t the first time or the last time someone innocent would die because of him.

 

  • * *

 

Rebecca

 

Rebecca had the radio on. They were saying one of the houses near the plant had caught on fire. They were lying of course; everything about this town, the police, the news, all of it a lie. It was nearly the afternoon now. Rebecca had been alone for hours of disgusting nothingness, not knowing if anyone was ever going to come for her.

Rebecca heard a noise and when she turned, Donna was in the house, as bright as an electric sun. She must have run through the back kitchen wall because no door had been opened. Just seeing Donna looking so inhuman made Rebecca let out a small scream, but Donna didn’t seem to notice her. Donna just kept running, going so fast the light blurred as she moved, and she was upstairs before Rebecca could compose herself. There was a horrible silence before she heard the shower turn on.

Rebecca walked up the stairs, wondering where Paul and Spencer were. Had they been captured or had … Oh God, no! Yet something told her yes. The way Spencer had been before she’d had to leave him seemed to bring a sick reality to mix with her urgency to save Paul, the reality that Donna or Spencer could die. No, no, please no! Rebecca stood outside the bathroom unable to ask. What would she do if it was just her and Donna now? If the two boys, one her best friend, the other the love of her life, were gone? She wouldn’t be able to bear it.

Rebecca got up the courage to open the bathroom door. She saw Donna, back to looking like a human girl again, but not looking anything like any version of Donna she had ever seen. Donna was naked and holding herself in a fetal position while the water was pouring down on her in the shower with the curtain open.

She asked her what happened, and all Donna said was, “They shot him.”

Rebecca felt the life drain from her as well. Suddenly Donna’s disfigured state started to take over Rebecca like a chilling plague.

“Spencer?” she asked, expecting to hear a yes, feeling her body about to give out and wanting Paul there to hold her. Donna stayed silent and absolutely out of it, shaking and looking like she belonged in a mental institution. The next word slipped out of Rebecca’s mouth before she could even understand her own question. “Paul?”

Donna turned her head for a sickening moment, meeting Rebecca’s eyes. She looked like she was crying, though Rebecca couldn’t tell if the tears were really shower water. The emotion Rebecca felt through those eyes hurt her.

Donna nodded and then turned and went back to her shaking, out of it state. Rebecca stayed frozen, refusing to understand what that had meant, leaning against the sink while she replayed the whole thing from when she first walked in, to now, over again. No … I must not understand … I …

An hour could have passed right then, or just a minute. She didn’t know, as she stood there and refused to understand. When she heard the door open, she raced out of the bathroom and down the stairs. Spencer was at the door; he looked … changed, but alive.

Rebecca paused several feet away from him, gripping onto the staircase ledge. If Spencer was right here in front of her then Donna meant … Rebecca felt her universe cease to exist.

“Paul, where’s Paul?”

Spencer slowly walked over to her, his hands on her shoulders as he started to speak, but Rebecca couldn’t listen.

“Guards … bullets … Paul … ambulance … gone … sorry … feel … should of … ” All his words were a distant echo of mush as every light inside her died. She let go of the ledge and was seconds away from smashing onto the stairs when Spencer caught her and swooped her up in his arms, and then the tears came.

 

  • * *

 

Spencer

 

Spencer cried with Rebecca, and after an hour he went upstairs. The shower was still running with the door opened. He walked in slowly and found no one inside the bathroom. All that was left in the tub was what looked like a pair of soles from Donna’s running shoes that were scorched and burned up.

He left and looked in Donna’s dad’s room, which was close by, and saw no one. Then he walked into Donna’s room. Her lights were off, and he saw her lying in bed shaking with her eyes opened wide. She didn’t look toward him or even notice he was in the room.

He took a step closer and saw that she was crying. He slowly reached out his hand and touched her. Her skin was beyond fever hot, but it wasn’t anywhere near hot enough to burn him like the day of the accident. She was barely covered under her sheet, and completely undressed underneath. Spencer pulled the thin sheet up to cover her and then got into bed with her, over the sheets, holding her as she shook.

 

 

Chapter Twelve

Two Weeks Later

 

Donna

 

Donna walked with Rebecca and Spencer to school. They looked as normal as they could, holding straight faces and having fake conversations with one another. The school was decorated with Christmas decorations, and in one week they’d be out for winter break.

It was the first day that the three of them had come back to school together. Donna had tried two times yesterday and the day before but couldn’t bring herself to walk in. Spencer had gone back last week; he was a lot better at pretending than they were, though if you knew him well you could tell something was off. Guess it worked out that the three of them never were popular. Rebecca’s mom had gotten her and Donna excuse notes, calling the guidance counselor and saying they were good friends of Paul’s.

Donna took her first step onto the school grounds. The bell had rung about ten minutes ago, and they were all late. They walked Rebecca to her class first, then, after they hugged her, Rebecca went in. Rebecca still, two weeks after Paul’s funeral, had the look of death. Like her soul had been sucked out. Donna had been as strong as possible for her on their way to school today, but now that she was gone, Donna was trembling. She had tried her best to be as normal as possible every time she’d been forced to leave her house, but this was different. Normal people weren’t in this class with her. He had this class with her. She didn’t know if she’d be strong enough to hold it together.

“Donna, we have to go inside,” Spencer told her.

She looked at him with one hot tear rolling down her face; it was all her body was able to produce even after drinking seven bottles of water this morning. “I don’t think I can.”

“I feel what your feeling, Donna. It’s killing me too,” he whispered, his face close to hers. “But if we act the least bit suspicious, the least bit different, if they find out what you are, then Paul died for nothing.”

Flashes of Paul’s death started again in her head and she pushed them away, holding Spencer’s hand for support, she nodded. They looked into each other’s eyes for a moment, then he opened the classroom door. They walked into class, Donna still holding his hand, masking her fear with the best normal face she could make. She didn’t look toward Ryan, she kept her eyes right toward her desk as she and Spencer walked toward it.

“Look who’s late, as usual,” Lynn snickered.

“Are they dating?” A couple kids were whispering gossip near by.

Donna kept her face on the board, took a deep breath, and pulled out her piece of paper, pretending to take notes as Mr. Harris went over the homework. Donna just scribbled shapes and numbers on her page, watching the clock, counting down the minutes she’d have to sit there. Tonight was her gymnastics tournament; they had postponed it because of Paul and the fires. Today was the day she had thought fifteen days ago would never come. Her way out … she had been craving it like regular humans crave air. Now, though, it was a day she just wanted to be over with. Like yesterday, and the day before. Every day was a day of just pretending and hiding and trying to not be noticed. Every day was like another bullet being shot at her, and all she could do was hope it didn’t kill her.

 

  • * *

 

Ryan

 

Ryan sat next to his girlfriend in math class. She was whispering to Tara next to her while she played with Ryan’s hand. He couldn’t stop looking at Donna. She looked so … out of it. He hadn’t seen her at all in the past two weeks except for Paul’s funeral, where she hadn’t looked at him once. He hadn’t even known she was close to Paul, but then apparently Paul and Rebecca had started dating, so it made sense that Donna knew him.

Randy hadn’t come to school since Paul’s death, either. Everything had turned upside down in the last two weeks, and the whole thing was still a blur. There was some kind of Electrolite intruder. Why he had come, they still didn’t know exactly. Some thought maybe it was to help Paul, but then others thought it was to get information.

Ryan had tried to catch it or kill it. The guy’s powers were strong, if a normal person tried to touch him, he would be deadly. Ryan had been hungry for more of a challenge, but the animal inside him had blocked his thinking. He was still nowhere ready to go on missions. His brother had been right.

Then Paul had died. He never really knew the guy, but it was hard for anyone here in such a small town not to mourn the death of an eighteen-year-old boy. It was such a shame, he’d been offered to be a part of their team. He could have helped them save lives but instead he’d chosen to run.

Ryan looked at Donna again, then saw Lynn give him the stare of death. He looked forward. He had gone to Donna’s house two days ago, just to make sure she was all right. She had been in her room, asleep and safe.

He looked at Lynn. She was almost everything any guy would ever want, and he cared about her. He understood his exact feelings for her. With her, he was Ryan Applegate, a 105 Biomax soldier, but with Donna things were complicated, never ending, and dangerous. She was the first girl he had ever liked and opened up to. She was absolutely beautiful in ways Lynn could never be to him. He had gone back and forth from liking her to just caring about her, or at least he’d made himself believe he just cared; her being a reminder that he’d never be able to be normal or more than a secret friend to her. Though it seemed he couldn’t even find ways to do that anymore, and it killed him worse then being shocked by the Electrolite.

Yet it had to be this way. Fighting the Electrolite proved his animal self and human self didn’t fully know each other well enough yet. If they had, he’d have beaten the electric intruder easily. He’d been made to do so much more than that.

“This was only the beginning,” his father’s words, yet he could feel in his skin they were true. He needed control. Control was the key, but he knew if anyone ever tried to hurt Donna the animal inside him would not be able to be controlled. He’d tear them to pieces …

 

  • * *

 

Donna

 

That night the stage was lit, and most of the town was there to see the state gymnastics team, which went from school to school to show off and give an entertaining show. After that, all the people trying out would have one three-minute audition on the beam, the bars, or the horse, their choice. Donna watched Melissa perform, knowing she could do just as well now.

Brook had come into town to see her win this. She’d driven all the way from the city. She was sitting next to Spencer and Rebecca in the far right end of the bleachers. Brook smiled and screamed out Donna’s name. Donna pretended to smile shyly, and Brook mouthed “You can do this!”

Her routine was perfect, and seeing Melissa not go for the back handspring double back tuck, she now knew she had this. Here was her one chance to be free, far away from this nightmare of a place. She waved to her dad, who walked in late, of course, and went to sit by his best friend. Her stomach turned sour as Mr. Applegate, Ryan, and Lynn sat together with her father.

If I do this, and if they suspect what I am, Spencer, Rebecca, and I could die! Then my dad will be alone. She’d written that sentence down over and over again, but now it was time to act on what she, Spencer, and Rebecca had decided.

Donna walked out in her gymnastics uniform and took her beginning pose, staring at the audience. I could be free … The other voice in her head screamed at her against the logical one. The music started and Donna began her routine …

 

  • * *

 

Unknown

 

Far away from East Applegate, across from America, in an ancient ruin lost to all but a select group trusted with its secrets, stood two men. One was old, withered, and wise looking, with something devious and misleading in his smile. The other was younger, in his twenties, and had blond hair and silver eyes, and the presence of a great knight or king. This young one looked troubled, angry, and confused. “You warned Paul Cohen the day before his death! It was you! You broke every one of the rules you taught me!” he accused the old man.

The old man made a humble, innocent face, making eye contact with the boy. “Yes, I’m afraid I did,” he said at last.

“You changed everything! The entire future, you—”

“We’ve all changed the future many times, isn’t that the point of our existence?” the old man reasoned calmly.

“Don’t try to manipulate me. We both know what the penalty is for this.”

“Yes, we both know,” the old man spoke as he took a step toward him. “And you, my young son, would be dead right now if such misunderstandings were put into action.”

They both looked at each other, a secret being understood only to them.

“I should have known they were right about you,” the young man said to the old man’s face at last.

“Maybe they were, from the old ways point of view, but the old times have passed. A new prelude is upon us. Yes, I changed the future. The boy was a necessary sacrifice in order to save a life, that, I thought you’d agree, should be saved among all else. After all, it was your promise to keep.”

“Don’t twist this!”

“There is nothing to twist.” The old man kept going, “Don’t you understand, son, that everything I do is for you? Paul Cohen would have grown up to be your biggest enemy, and the promise you made to Kalob would be unkept.”

“You know I’m forbidden to keep that promise,” the young man told him, looking down at the ground.

“I know that the future is in our hands now, it’s time to shape it. It’s time you go back to East Applegate. It’s time you return home, David Young.”

 

 

###

 

 

Shock Me is the first of five novels in The Shock Me series.

Written by Ashley C. Harris.

 

Click here to read the second novel in the series SPARKS.

 

 

Also By

Ashley C. Harris

 

THE SHOCK ME SERIES

Shock Me

Sparks

Collide

New Divide

Ignite

 

THE ONE NIGHT IN SERIES

One Night In Heated Snapshots

One Night In Close Exposure

 

THE LINES NOVELLAS SERIES

Lines Part One

Lines Part Two

Lines Part Three

 

 

 

For more information and news on Ashley C. Harris’s upcoming books go to:

www.Ashleycharris.com

 

You can also find her on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAshleyC.Harris

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Ashley_C_Harris

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/AshleyCHarris

Tumblr: http://ashley-c-harris.tumblr.com/

Instigram: http://instagram.com/ashley_c_harris

 

 

 

Special Thanks From The Author:

 

Special thanks to Amber Harris, my parents David and Karen Harris, and everyone else that encouraged me to pursue publishing this book. To Cameron Yeager, the most amazing editor, and also to Molly Harris, Ariel Lepoff, and all the other proofreaders who helped me along the way. To my publicists Danielle Barclay, Anjana Vasan, and everyone else at Barclay Publicity. The adventure of this series has just started and I thank you all!

 

###

 

 

 

 

Behind The Shock Me Series

An additional note from author Ashley C. Harris.

 

SHOCK ME in my own words is a novel about a teenage girl who is viewed, and views herself, as someone not special or important. Yet when she discovers she has an extraordinary gift, it turns out she just may be the key to unlocking a hidden mystery about her town and the world around her, including a dark twist about the guy she used to be best friends with.

 

A message I wanted to convey in the novel to the readers is that as a teenager or a new adult, no matter what a person is going through and how awkward and impossible things get, you are still so special and have been put on earth with unique abilities to do great things. That it is possible to overcome anything and make a big difference. It only takes one person to change the scales of history.

 

Some people don’t know that SHOCK ME was actually inspired by a dream I had when I was thirteen.  In that dream, I saw a beautiful young women who was running through an open field while being chased by an enemy. She hit a giant fence in the dream right as her rival got closer, trapping her. I thought she was done for when suddenly I watched her body transform into something super alive and electric! This girl was actually able to run through the fence like an electric ghost unharmed. After I awoke from that dream I immediately wrote the whole thing down. Years later the book SHOCK ME came about and it’s my favorite thing I’ve written so far. 

 

What’s coming next for the SHOCK ME series? After reading book one the readers can find SPARKS, the second installment in the series, and then COLLIDE the third novel. All three are available to download right away in ebook stores. In fall of 2015, an independent standalone novella titled NEW DIVIDE will be released that centers around one of the side characters in Shock Me. A big twist will be revealed in that novella that will impact all the characters including Donna’s survival and future decisions. Books four and five will be released in 2016 and I’m so excited to see what all the readers think of Donna’s complete story as a whole. I love everyone of these characters from Donna’s world and if you think you know them and what they are capable of from book one. . . think again.

 

 

 

Read a sneak peak of SPARKS bellow.

 

 

SPARKS

 

The Shock Me Series

Book Two

 

By

Ashley C. Harris

 

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

 

Copyright 2014 by Ashley C. Harris. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Author.

 

http://www.ashleycharris.com

 

Amazon Edition

 

The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademarked owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction: Nerd, Hummer, Dumpster, Syfy Channel, Ford Mustang, Walmart, Hick, Superman, Dazy Duke’s, Tiffany’s, Grinch, Linkin Park, Hummer limo, X-Files, Pop-Tart, Windows, Zoe Saldana, Carrie, Titanic, Mad Hatter.

 

 

Dedicated to:

Jesus Christ

“ … he (who) was wounded for our transgressions,

he (who) was bruised for our iniquities:

the chastisement of our peace was upon him,

and with his stripes we are (forever) healed.” Isaiah 53:5 (Old Testament)

 

&

 

Teenagers Everywhere:

“You have a future … You’re dreams are not impossible. Don’t let the world’s negative words about this generation rob your destiny. You are special and wonderfully made to do great things.”

 

 

 

SPARKS

 

 

 

PART ONE

Picking Up The Pieces

 

 

 

Chapter One

Six Years Ago

 

 

Donna

 

Donna sat next to her dad in his old truck as he drove home to East Applegate from New York. She was twelve, and this had been her first summer in the big city. Unfortunately, her father hadn’t dragged her there for a vacation or excitement. No, New York had supposedly been the last place David, her older brother, had been spotted. Yet her dad had found nothing.

Donna was young and had been kept in the dark about all this. As the daughter of the once beloved town football hero now turned broke and falling apart handyman, Donna spent her days at her grandma’s or with her best friend and godbrother, Ryan Applegate. Ryan was the boy she told her every secret to, and who helped her escape from the middle school bullies that preyed on all the little kids; like Ryan’s older brother Randy.

Now it was time for Donna to begin middle school, yet that was far from her mind. Everything delicate and peaceful had been shaken within her, revealing a new grayness inside her mind: fear. Her childhood feelings of being protected and special had been stolen in the city, kidnapped by a creature with silver eyes.

Donna shuddered as a tear rolled down her cheek, followed by another and another. Her father was lost in his own misery of not finding her brother. It wasn’t till Donna’s crying made her shake that he noticed something was wrong.

“Honey, is everything all right?”

Donna bit her lip, unable to look at him. She wanted to tell her father what scary thing had happened to her in the city. Wanted a grown up to make her mind stop thinking about the grayness in her head. But her dad wasn’t strong enough. She could see the weight of sorrow her father bore, and she didn’t want to hurt him more with her story. But how could she stop the nightmares from coming? “Everything is fine, Daddy. I’m just cold.”

Donna continued to tremble as her father turned the heater on and patted her shoulder, pulling her in tight for a moment as if to warm her, and kissing her on the top of the head.

Ryan. I have to be strong till I get home to him.

She let go of her father’s embrace and buried her head into the seat. She believed more than anything her best friend would make her pain go away. When they were together, Donna could be strong.

 

  • * *

 

 

Present Day: Somewhere In New York City

 

Jason

 

“What did the old man say?” Jason asked his cellmate as he watched him open his eyes to their dingy dark cell; his spooky silver irises practically glowed in the dark prison.

“That Paul Cohen’s death will trigger our freedom,” his cellmate whispered. Jason smiled, but his cellmate’s stress only seemed to grow heavier. Why? This was what they’d been waiting for. His cellmate jumped up and began doing pull ups.

“Meanwhile, you left me here in this bloody compound while you, lucky bloke, got to be in a trance seeing things that are halfway around the globe. I got to be stuck listening to the newest nutter they just moved back to our floor.” Jason nodded his head toward an isolated cell that was far away from the other Bios. Rumor had it the isolated creep was the first Biomax solider to have ever been created.

The weirdo laughed and sneered as he made eyes at Jason’s cellmate, this was going to be a long night. “Escape,” he called out, taunting them all. “When that day comes, and we all know it’s coming soon, and we’re let lose with all our abilities and power, where do you think I plan on heading, ladies and gentleman?” He continued to stare down at Jason’s cellmate, talking only to him. “Where do you think I’ll go … David Young? Isn’t that the name you’ve been trying to go by?”

David jumped down from his pull up bar and stared a deadly stare at the crazy Bio original.

“Don’t do it,” Jason tried to warn him. “If you project yourself into his cell you know what he’ll be able to do.”

The nutter kept talking, trying to egg them on. “The moment these bars shift open, I’ll be on my way back to East Applegate, to the clueless and pathetic Doug Young. I wonder if he still has that poor innocent daughter of his? They’ll be the first humans I plan on visiting. How else can we all make the Applegate’s pay?” And with that, everyone else in all the cells, except for Jason and his very angry cellmate, began to clap.

Freedom was around the corner, for everyone, and so was the unknown.

 

  • * *

 

 

Donna

 

Donna made it home from school, shutting the door behind her. The walk home had been almost as awful as class itself. The moment she stepped one foot off campus, she had barely been able to hold her fears and nightmares in any longer. She was sure her pretending today hadn’t been good enough. Sure that Ryan or Randy or someone else had figured out what she really was and was following her, ready to take her down and destroy her, to kill her at the mere age of sixteen.

Now within the safety of her house, she could hold the urge to turn no longer. “Turn” was her only word to describe when her body did the unthinkable, unexplainable, most shocking transformation into some kind of government electrical solider. A solider unknown to the government somehow thanks to Paul Cohen’s death. He’d sacrificed himself for her. Why? Why did Donna’s existence cause so many bad things to happen?

Her body, charged with adrenalin, began to tingle, and she felt as if she was falling asleep from the top of her head down to her toes. Her skin changed, becoming transparent and see-through. She became a being made of pulsing electric light. So weightless, she felt lighter than a small animal. So alive, she felt like she wanted run out of town and never stop. She feared the shocking particles within her might explode with her increasing heartbeat.

“Donna, is that you?” her dad yelled from the kitchen.

Donna made a movement with her chest, as if she was taking a deep breath even though she wasn’t exactly sure if this electrical thing she was ever really needed oxygen. Then she closed her transparent eyes and pushed herself with all her might, forcing her body back to humanity.

Her flesh returned to normal right as her dad walked into the living room. He said something that she didn’t hear as she glanced down at herself to make sure she was fully dressed; that her electric skin hadn’t fried her clothes as it did fifty percent of the time when she transformed. Shirt, trousers, shoes … oh no. No shoes! Her dad didn’t seem to notice though. Donna moved past him, nodding her head to whatever he was saying as she made it to the kitchen.

She poured herself a glass of water, leaving the sink on as she let her hand stay under the running faucet.

“When does the competition start again?” her dad asked as he drank his coffee, looking out of the window. He’d been distracted all week, more than usual. Disappointment hung in his features since the day he’d gotten home.

“It’s at six. Dad, you really don’t have to go,” she pleaded, trying to sound normal.

“I just have to do a repair at Mrs. Watson’s and then I’ll be there, darling. I know this means a lot to you.”

Donna knew he felt proud of himself for going. He never went to many of Donna’s gymnastic things. He was always helping others, making repairs, or searching for David, her runaway brother that everyone but her father believed was dead.

“Please don’t go,” she whispered, so low he couldn’t hear her. It’s not safe, nothing here is safe. This town is death …

Her dad was heading out back.

“You never told me how your trip went,” Donna said suddenly, still facing the sink. For some reason she still wanted to hear her dad’s voice.

“It—it wasn’t him. He was someone else’s boy,” her dad told her in agony and defeat.

Yeah, Donna knew his answer would be something like that, it always was. “I’m sorry, Dad.”

He headed out back, leaving Donna alone.

 

  • * *

 

 

Earlier That Day

 

Randy

 

Randy walked onto campus. He’d blown off school all week, sleeping in his car far away from his house and his father. Now though, his dad had cut off his credit card, and he had no more gas. So, with nowhere else to go, he went to school. He was three hours late but who gave a damn. This town, his education, it was all a joke; a government’s candy shop of super soldiers they told what to do.

He leaned against his locker and grabbed his last cigarette, taking a long hard smoke. He wished he could “smoke” the people who had made him feel like this, but then what would he do? Where would he go? This town was like his holding place, like the cage that holds a rabid dog inside. Open it and the dog kills people, keep it shut and the dog grows more numb and bitter.

“Randy Applegate!” The dean called out annoyingly. The man thought he had control of these halls; he thought he had power. He had no idea what he was dealing with.

“Your father’s been looking for you!”

“When you see him, tell him I don’t give a—”

The dean interrupted Randy’s cursing. “You can tell him yourself, along with the words suspension worked into your speech.”

Randy looked away from the dean. He could care less.

“For skipping school and smoking on campus,” the dean continued. “Now, you will be handing over your lighter and coming with me!”

Randy laughed, bitterly. “You really think so?”

The bell rang and Randy’s classmates started pouring into the hallway; his team members, girls he’d hooked up with, geeks he’d taken lunch money from due to boredom a few years back. They all watched the dean and Randy square off. This town is so pathetic …

“Your two week suspension is about to be increased, now hand me your lighter!” the dean demanded.

Randy looked at him, so tempted, so very tempted to show the world what he could do. To become the criminal he’d really been made to be. All the speeches about fighting for his country and for the people, that was all bull.

He saw his brother and Lynn approaching, and for a split second, he wondered if he could take them. If his brother would jump through the flames and try to stop him. Would Ryan stand by while other agents gunned Randy down? Like his father stood by while agents gunned Paul Cohen down? He is your brother, Randy! he argued with himself. He’s not your father!

Randy tossed the lighter, which was flaming hot from being in his hands, then walked into the dean’s office, ignoring the tiny scream as the dean caught the hot mechanical device from the air. Ignoring the crowd around him as they watched and whispered. Ignoring life.

 

  • * *

 

 

Brook

 

Brook arrived in the hick town known as East Applegate early. She’d tried to go to Donna’s, but no one had been home, and Donna didn’t have a cell phone. She must still be in class. Brook walked over to the vending machine in front of the gas station, getting a bag of peanuts to soothe her over till after Donna’s performance tonight. This town was so plain, yet it felt homey in a foreign way.

She ripped open the bag, and went back to her car feeling bored and out of place. The only time she’d actually shown up early and she should have left late. Hearing a knock at her window, she turned to see who it was. Surprise, surprise, Randy Applegate, the gorgeous rich jerk who’d blown her off.

She lowered her window. “Can I help you?” she asked with a mixture of flirtation and bitterness. Shouldn’t he be in school? Odds were he was skipping or had gotten suspended again.

“Yeah, could I get a lift?” he asked.

She looked at him strangely. “Don’t you have a seventy thousand dollar car strong enough to probably lift this town from one place to another?”

“Not today,” he told her with his usual cold tone.

She popped open her door and let him take a seat. He was one year younger than her so she could give him some slack, “some” being the key word. “Ok, your highness, where exactly would you like to go?” she asked him.

“Far away from here,” was his answer.

She smiled; at least the time would go by fast. By the time she and Randy were done, Donna would be out of school.

 

  • * *

 

 

Randy

 

Two hours later, Randy was kissing Brook fiercely, the girl whose last name he couldn’t even remember. They’d gone back to the guesthouse and he was ready to enjoy life for just one more moment. Ready for a drug that would make him forget.

He kissed her soft skin, taking her shirt off and lowering her down to the bed.

“Are you ok?” she asked, pulling away from him.

He looked at her confused.

“You seem a little distracted,” she said cautiously.

He realized then that his eyes were watery and his hands were shaking. He backed up, mad and disgusted and feeling like a total idiot. “I’m fine,” he said coldly. “I’m more than fine.” He moved back toward her, taking her back into his arms. She could be any girl right now, who she was didn’t matter. “I’m fantastic.” He started kissing her again, and she kissed him back. Her long legs entangled with his.

An hour went by, and the two of them just lay there silent. It had been great, a little awkward, but still really good. Now it was over and the reality of his life had set back in. Sex, his drug of choice, had worn off, and he felt the same disgust for himself and what he was even stronger than he did before. He needed a smoke. He pulled out the plastic lighter he’d bought at the drugstore and lit a cigarette.

Brook stood up and started to put her clothes back on. “Could you keep the second hand smoke far away from me please,” she snapped at him. He said nothing so she chirped on. “Donna’s going to be in a competition today. Are you going?” she asked.

He shrugged, anything was better than staying here. When he wasn’t doing it in his dad’s house, he was just in his dad’s house, which made him feel even worse.

“She’s your godsister right?” she asked him next.

“Whatever,” he mumbled.

Donna was an innocent, clueless girl, and his family was a family of Biomax soldiers who had enough power to control the United States. Donna wasn’t in any shape or form like his family.

He stood up and slipped his shirt on, not looking at the girl getting dressed in his room that he hardly knew; she was just another face that had entertained him. “Let’s go,” he said, walking toward the door without a glance back.

 

 

Chapter Two

The Night Of Donna’s Competition

 

Later that night, after their junior state gymnastic team performed, the music Donna had chosen started and she took her first pose. This was it, the performance she’d been preparing herself for all year. If she scored the highest, she’d be sponsored as the newest member of the state team and would finally be given her ticket out of this place.

She jumped into a cartwheel, causing her body to spring upward, landing on the beam. She should have been more nervous than she was, but all she thought about was what she was supposed to do, and if she’d really be able to do it. She did everything she could to look as graceful as possible with the melody of the song, starting out with simple walks and poses, then going into back handsprings. She felt like time was slowing down, like her routine was in slow motion and could last forever. She tried to listen to the music, to do every move with fluidity and rhythm, but it was pointless. She couldn’t hear the music anymore. She was alone up there, the world far away.

This was supposed to be the moment when she’d win her freedom. This was supposed to be her new beginning and farewell to the town that before ten weeks ago she thought she understood. She was supposed to win this, and she knew she could.

 

  • * *

 

 

Spencer

 

Spencer sat in the crowd, trying not to look at Mr. Applegate who was sitting right next to Donna’s dad. Supposedly they were best friends growing up, he and Mr. Young. Mr. Applegate had even been chosen as Donna’s godfather at the time of her birth. No one knew he was a sick monster; a man who had everybody fooled. Everyone but Spencer, Rebecca, and Donna that is.

Spencer had never liked him to begin with. There was always something off about the way Mr. Applegate looked at Spencer and his mom. Then on the night of Paul’s death, Spencer, Rebecca, and Donna had all heard through a recording device Mr. Applegate brag to Paul about his secret government base, about how he had the power to make people disappear, and about the creation of secretly enhanced government soldiers.

Pulling his gaze and thoughts away from Mr. Applegate, Spencer looked ahead at Donna as she did her routine. She looked so beautiful and delicate; like an angel doing gymnastics on a cloud. Two and a half months ago, he would have been staring at her body. Yeah, she was his friend, one of his best friends in East Applegate in fact, but she had also gotten very, very hot.

But Spencer didn’t look at her like that now. Everything had changed. He looked at her and saw flashes of Mr. Applegate’s son, Randy, trying to burn her alive with pyro powers no human should have. He saw flashes of Donna almost being run over and her body doing the impossible, turning into live electricity. Flashes of him holding her while she was crying after the day Paul had died. He knew the real Donna now, had seen her vulnerable and afraid, and he knew he’d never look at her or life the same way again. She had the powers of one of these secret government monsters, and yet none of Mr. Applegate’s fiends knew she did. Neither Ryan or Randy knew who she really was, thank God!

Spencer closed his eyes for a moment, once again trying to block out thoughts of the past that were now bursting into his brain like exploding glass. Not just the most recent unbelievable past of him and his friends trying to save Paul and failing, but also thoughts he had kept hidden from everyone for most of his life, until now. Thoughts of his stepfather, Sergio, trying to hurt his mom, of them running away, and memories of the police not being able to protect them, until they came here to the town where his mother had grown up. Supposedly it was the most boring town in existence. Boring … yeah, what a farce!

Spencer could do nothing but jest and pretend he wasn’t anything more than an innocent loser at his school. Someone who only cared about being funny. Only now, even jokes were hard to make. Fear of what was going to happen next was everywhere.

 

  • * *

 

 

Donna

 

Donna did her first back walkover, her body feeling lighter and less real than it would have had she been normal. The music was so perfect, so numbing and beautiful. Mr. Applegate’s voice echoed in her mind, “The winner of the tournament I’m going to sponsor … that could be you young lady.” This was it … this was the moment …

One last memory flew through Donna’s thoughts. One she wished she could forget but needed right now to draw strength from. Past the aching grayness that suddenly began manifesting in her head, was the fresh memory of Paul’s funeral; the memory of his coffin being lowered as she took one glance at Mr. Applegate, her godfather. His son Ryan, her ex-best friend and ex-biggest crush of her existence, was next to him, but from him Donna shunned her eyes away. Standing away from the casket, she had tried to let herself cry as Spencer held her hand. Her skin was so electric that every tear disintegrated.

Now in present time, Donna moved her body around and began her stunt, doing again another back handspring; feeling herself grow even more light and flexible. “That could be you,” Mr. Applegate’s words in her head repeated. She continued into a back tuck, and then another, but then just as it was time to land and finish off, she pushed her body to the side and slammed her leg onto the beam, forcing herself to fall.

 

  • * *

 

 

Randy

 

Randy stood by the door of the school he’d been suspended from and couldn’t bear to watch his father sit inside the gym as if he really cared for the community any longer. Please!

He walked away from the gymnastic performance and through the empty halls, his anger and bitterness eating away at his soul. This was the first time the town had been together since Paul’s funeral. Paul, the geek who he’d been watching since they found out someone had hacked into their systems. Paul, who’d tried to jump on Randy to save the Electrolite intruder, whose identity they still didn’t know. Whether Paul had somehow been working with the electric guy or not, the kid should still have been alive today. He’d been unarmed, with no abilities except for his annoying brain, which had gotten him into this mess in the first place. It wasn’t Randy’s fault he’d chosen to die. Yet it burned him to the core that he didn’t think fast enough to somehow stop what had happened.

He kicked open the door of the dean’s office, walking into the dark room to the jerk’s desk and pulling open one drawer after another, looking for his silver lighter. After two minutes, he found it in the fourth drawer with a bunch of other crap the dean had confiscated from other students. Even with his good lighter in hand, which usually calmed his nerves down, it was too late. Randy felt fire burst up all around him, and in anger, he made it grow. He walked out of the office, letting the desk burn to dust, and left the fire to consume and multiply.

 

  • * *

 

 

Spencer

 

Donna had messed up on purpose. Seeing her do that burned Spencer. It was painful to see her give up what he could see in her eyes she wanted so badly. The music still played as he watched her fake the injury on the ground, holding her leg. The crowd was at first very quiet, then a few echoes of laughter started to sound, one after another as someone went to help Donna up. The moment was interrupted when the fire alarm started going off. The crowd gasped and Spencer jumped almost a foot into the air, having a small heart attack as everyone stood up wondering if this was for real or a joke.

The coach was with Donna now, helping her walk over to the other gymnasts. She seemed to have no clue as to what was going on as she eyed Spencer and Rebecca with uncertainty. This was all probably a prank or something, but fear crept inside Spencer and he began wondering if it was something more.

Smoke started coming from under one of the doors leading into the hallway. The laughing and talking of the students turned into screams as the principal and a bunch of men started heading down the hall to put the fire out. Ryan Applegate ran with them, which gave Spencer an eerie feeling. It was like Paul’s death all over again.

He saw that Donna and the rest of the gymnastic team were being evacuated, and her dad was running to help the other men with the fire. Mr. Applegate, the wicked foe, was on the phone, yelling at someone. As everyone headed outside, Spencer looked at Brook, who was alone and looking around.

“Randy was in the hallway. I hope he’s ok,” she said to Spencer with a worried look.

Spencer and Rebecca crossed eyes with each other as he grew sick to his stomach. He knew Mr. Applegate’s oldest son would be more than fine, and that he had no doubt started this fire.

 

 

Chapter Three

 

 

Ryan

 

Ryan, Randy’s brother, waited outside the family library with Lynn, his girlfriend. Despite everything, she was in a good mood, and Ryan was sure he knew why: Donna. Before all the chaos with his brother, Lynn had celebrated and laughed when Donna fell at the gymnastic tournament tonight. Seeing her hurt herself on the beam was still eating away at him. His bones clamped together with tension, screaming that above all else Donna should always be the one to never get hurt. Wasn’t that why he’d pushed her away in the first place?

“I can’t believe Randy did this,” Lynn said as she tried to hold onto Ryan’s hand. He pulled it to his side.

“It is stupid and immature,” Ryan spat. “Of course he’d do something like this.”

“He’s been acting so strange ever since that Electrolite attacked us. Do you think this is over failing the mission, or because that senior kid died?” she asked more gently, trying to sound sincere.

Ryan just wasn’t in the mood to talk or understand his older brother right now. Randy had been brooding for two weeks, but this time he’d gone way too far. His temper was getting more and more out of control. What would happen if he did something like this outside of East Applegate and their school? What would happen if Randy one day became one of the criminals they were expected to track down? He was supposed to be Ryan’s older brother. Yet Ryan always had to be the more responsible one who kept everything together.

Randy walked out of the office. He looked pissed and completely disconnected as usual. “Enjoy the show?” he snickered.

Lynn stayed quiet. For the first time ever it was Ryan’s turn to yell at his brother, not hers. “You mean the knock off version of a circus? No, no one enjoyed it!” Ryan barked.

Randy turned around facing him. “You are so stupid and naive. This is all such a joke!” he said coldly.

“Oh plea—”

“You’ve never been on a real mission, brother! Stop trying to pretend like you’ve actually seen anything beyond the walls of our high school. You couldn’t even stop a rogue amateur Electrolite at our dad’s power plant.” As Randy spoke, Ryan had to clamp his fists together and stop the canine aggressive part of himself from rising, ever so slowly and yet deadly, to the surface.

“Stop acting like you’re Superman because you’re a long cry away from anything real!” Randy yelled, his words stinging Ryan inside even more because of their double-edged meaning. Ryan really wasn’t anything real at all. And in this moment, if Randy only knew how he could easily let the animal inside take over. I’m stronger than that.

“Maybe, but you know what? When I do go on a ‘real mission,’ at least I’ll handle it maturely. Not like some angry child!”

Randy laughed bitterly. “When you go on a mission, you won’t ever be really handling it. You’ll just be a well-trained dog, unable to do anything but what you are commanded. You’ll get to the end without ever remembering the beginning! Don’t you get it? We are all just different acts in a sick man’s talent show!”

Randy turned around and started walking away.

“You really need help if you’re calling the government of the United States a talent show!” Ryan yelled after him, even though he and Lynn both knew who Randy was really referring to: their father.

Many hours later, Lynn suggested she and Ryan stay up late after training. She wanted to spend some time together in his dad’s giant movie theater room that he’d built for Ryan for one of his birthdays. It was two a.m. and Ryan’s body would routinely always get up at five fifteen like it did every day no matter what time he went to sleep. So as Lynn stayed up watching a boring chick flick and judging all its characters, Ryan found himself falling into a deep sleep right as the young lead male went in for his first kiss.

In Ryan’s dream, he was younger too. A lot younger; he was going on thirteen. It was a happier, freer, less complicated time, when he could pretend he was more human and less of a Biomax solider than he was now. In the dream, he was pretending to struggle as he climbed up the giant winding trees that twisted and met each other above their wood’s big lake.

“Be careful,” Donna warned him. She was sitting nervously on a big board Ryan had nailed into the joining trees. They were building a fort, a secret place only the two of them could ever know about, because Donna was his best friend back then. He handed her the supplies, pretending to struggle further as he climbed, when really his instincts were humming in a endless high as Ryan learned to use his “special body” as his dad liked to call it. Sometimes when he moved super fast it almost felt like he could soar.

Donna was about to say something as he maneuvered onto the board, but he quieted her.

“Shhh, someone’s coming.”

Two older people were swimming in the water, older than Ryan and Donna were at the time anyway. As the couple swam directly underneath them, Ryan realized they were spying on a very young and excited, more innocent version of Randy. And he was with the most beautiful girl from his class. Her name was Lea, and she was tall, almost taller than Randy, with an athletic frame that was complimented by princess long, strawberry blond, curly hair.

She and Randy were kicking and splashing each other in the lake, trying to see who could splash each other by making the biggest tidal wave. Randy won of course, but Lea was on the move, jumping onto Randy, trying to push him underneath the surface in a playful manner.

“Oh, so that’s how you’re gonna win this are you?” Randy teased her as he welcomed her presence against him. “You think you have me all figured out?”

“I know you think you’re so rough and tough, Randy Applegate,” she said as she stared into his eyes, fearless. “You make everyone think you’re such a brute, but I don’t think you’re as bad as you let on. I think deep down there’s a nice person in you.”

Randy didn’t roll his eyes like Ryan or Donna would have expected him to. Instead, his face actually looked a little nervous, as if something was being revealed as she spoke her words. Randy almost looked afraid as he started moving his face toward Lea’s. Their lips touched once, and then twice, and then they were full on kissing.

“Oh, my God!” Donna gasped in a whisper. Ryan couldn’t believe they were eavesdropping on their biggest bully’s possible first kiss. “I wonder how they move their lips like that?” Donna asked. And that’s when Donna’s own lips suddenly looked appealing in Ryan’s eyes like they never had before. He found himself staring, his body wondering something that none of the other boys his age wondered. Or at least they never admitted it. But Ryan had special DNA running through his veins, which produced hormones that were more primal and heightened. Suddenly it became obvious and clear that Ryan’s best childhood mate was a girl.

“Want to try it?” he asked.

“Try what?” she asked him as she turned back and their eyes locked.

“Try doing what they’re doing,” he said as his lips drew close to hers. Donna’s heart began beating fast, a rhythm only Ryan could hear as she shivered and went to say something. But before she could speak the words, Ryan’s lips brushed hers. Once, then twice, like his brother’s had touched Lea’s. Then Donna’s eyes fell shut and Ryan pressed his lips to hers even longer.

An eerie laugh in the forest stopped them all. Suddenly there was someone nearby Ryan could not sense, something neither human nor animal. The first original Biomax solider had found them.

Ryan turned back to Donna, but suddenly she wasn’t young anymore, she was her real age and so was he, and she was screaming. And behind the first original, crazy Biomax fiend stood the Electrolite that had broken into Ryan’s father’s power plant. He too had come to end them.

“Ryan! Ryan!” came his father’s hissing screams as Ryan’s eyes opened and a team of people surrounded him in his movie theater room. Lynn was still there, a horrified look on her face as agents blocked her from reaching him. Ryan’s dad was by his side. On the movie theater’s giant screen, instead of Lynn’s film, were vitals of Ryan’s current pulse, hormone levels, and blood work. Of course, Ryan’s dad had designed every part of his house, like his power plant, to be able to turn into a complete hospital lab in moments in case Ryan ever needed aid.

“I’m ok, I’m ok,” his voice first came out like a roar, sounding so unlike him, so inhuman, until he calmed everything inside himself down and his pulse on the screen calmed.

Everyone was looking at him, cameras were recording his every move, and nutritionists and trainers were ready to get every animalistic chemical inside him checked.

I need to get myself more together! Ryan’s mind screamed as Lynn’s harsh eyes portrayed the same thing. The intruder, the death of the boy from their own school, Donna getting hurt tonight, and the fire Randy had spawned, somehow it had produced this dream, which was really an old memory, in Ryan’s conscious to come out. And now that it had, it wasn’t going back anytime soon. Donna, the girl he had to ignore, and the first ever Biomax solider who had gone crazy and had to be locked away, were at the front of Ryan’s mind, haunting him.

Hopefully he wouldn’t go crazy himself.

 

 

Chapter Four

Two Weeks Later on Christmas Eve

 

 

Donna

 

Donna and Rebecca sat in silence as Rebecca’s mom drove them out of East Applegate. “It is time you two get out of this room,” she’d insisted earlier, after having confided in Donna that she was growing very worried about Rebecca’s condition. Ever since Paul’s death, Rebecca had been in a state of silence, getting her to even eat was a struggle.

“The mall will do you girls both some good,” Rebecca’s mom went on as she drove.

They parked at the only decent mall East, West, North, and South Applegate had. Not too long ago, Donna had adventured with Brook to an area nearby in West Applegate, her town’s biggest rival. Brook had somehow managed for her and Donna to party with the crème de la crème of West Applegate’s teens. At the time, Donna had thought this was a betrayal to her pathetic crush on Ryan, hanging out with his most fierce athletic competition. Not to mention social suicide if the popular bullies at her school ever found out. Yet now, all of those feelings and insecurities were irrelevant. Donna had almost died, everything else that used to seem like a big deal had changed.

The mall was decked out with holiday decorations. Christmas jingles blasted over the loud speakers, putting everyone in a lighthearted mood. Everyone but Rebecca, whose mom offered to buy her various things, all of which Rebecca was lifeless to. After a few hours, when Donna realized there was nothing she could do to help soothe her friend, she quickly decided to wander over to an old country watch store she had spotted. She needed to buy her dad something and perhaps the store had some kind of low cost item she could find for him. Though the first thing she spotted was a leather watch set that was over five hundred dollars. That was definitely out of her budget.

She ventured to a glass cabinet of old vintage pocket watches, spotting one with a horse on it she knew right away her dad would probably love. She looked around, hearing a store clerk in the back, and politely called out, “Excuse me,” to try to get the faceless person’s attention.

“I’ll be with you in just a minute,” the person called out as Donna continued to stare at the different watches. The old vintage ones were definitely the most beautiful. “How can I help you?”

Donna turned around and looked up right as she met the store clerk’s eyes. Cody Lighter paused when he saw Donna, the biggest smile coming to his face. His golden tan cheeks turned slightly red, and Donna felt all the water she had consumed on the way here dissolve with nervous heat. Cody was the star athlete and leading jock of West Applegate. He was tall and super cute, with bright green eyes and light blond hair. He’d been the one who had danced with Donna two weeks in a row. The fact that he had even wanted to dance with her was like a dream.

“If it isn’t Miss. East Applegate, back on my side of town,” he said as he walked up and embraced Donna in a hug, as if they were old time friends and she was worthy of him.

God, I hope I look halfway decent, she thought as she tried to relax into the causal embrace; she couldn’t. His skin was cool against her hot, pre-electric flesh. Nervous energy ran through her and she had to push herself not to turn and shock him upon impact.

“Hey,” she mumbled. “You, ah, work here?”

“Unfortunately yeah, my grandfather owns the shop. He has me working every day of winter break,” he told her as he rubbed his hand through his touchable hair.

“Oh, well, it’s nice. The shop I mean, it’s cool,” she tried to make causal conversation and failed, her mind so nervous by the scandal of his presence. Holy crap, he’s so hot.

“Yeah, it is what it is. As long as I have enough cash in my pocket to play football I’m happy.”

Donna felt herself completely melt right there and grow more squeamish at the same time.

“So, ah, what can I get for you today?” he asked her.

“Um, that one,” she pointed to the watch she had been eyeing, and he opened the case and pulled it out.

“The wanderer’s watch.” He handed it to her for her inspection.

She looked at it. It was cold and heavy in her hands. If anyone else had called it “the wanderer’s watch,” she probably would have picked another one instead. It was pretty ironic that the item that she knew her father would like was called that, but the way Cody said it made it sound so valuable.

“I bet your boyfriend will love it,” he told her next.

She smiled shyly, looking back up at his green eyes. He winked at her, and she looked back down, nervous. “It’s for my dad,” she told him. “No boyfriend.” As if I’d ever have a boyfriend anywhere. Then she remembered she was technically pretending to be dating Spencer; that was a whole other story, one she was sure Cody couldn’t know as Donna and Spencer were nobodies.

He took the watch from her and started placing it neatly in a box. “Ya know, we do this bonfire thing every Christmas night. It’s kind of a tradition at West Applegate High. You should come.”

“Um, Brook’s back in New York now,” Donna explained while he rung the watch up. She noticed that he entered in his employee discount code so the watch would cost even less, and yet it was still just on the rim of breaking her budget.

“I’m not asking Brook,” he said smoothly, looking up at her eyes. Could he really be saying this to me? Her body was about to go into electric hormonal overload. She needed to get out of there; instead, she stayed silent, not knowing what to mumble next.

“Merry Christmas, Donna Young. I hope to see you soon,” he told her as she took her purchase from him. In that moment, if only for a few precious seconds, all the monsters in her head were gone.

 

  • * *

 

 

Lynn

 

Lynn and Ryan were on the roof of her house, outside her bedroom window. She had cooked him crab cakes and steamed spinach for dinner while he’d stayed after school the one day they didn’t have training to work on an extra credit assignment in woodshop. Boring. Lynn hated things that were unnecessary, like cooking when you had no intensions of ever becoming a cook. Yet she’d forced Sue from cheerleading to help her out with making dinner tonight so this evening could be perfect.

A few weeks ago as team members, she and Ryan had gotten closer and closer. For a moment, she had thought his stupid “fascination” or whatever it was with Donna Young was over. After all, anyone who would date Spencer Klingalsmith, apparently he and Donna were a couple now, clearly had to be on medication. Such losers, why would Ryan want that?

Yet now, suddenly, things seemed different between her and Ryan whenever they were alone. They were less romantic with each other, and Ryan’s mind was always somewhere else. So Lynn had decided to try and make this evening charming, one night with her boyfriend all to herself. She sat next to him, hoping he’d kiss her, instead he just stared at the stars.

“See something interesting up there?” she asked as she slipped on another jacket. God, it was freezing.

“Yeah” he told her, his perfect face and lips making her yearn for a kiss. Ryan always had the effect that made people want to pull into him. Want to be more and more a part of his life. “A dog.” he answered, suddenly killing the mood. “A very thin one, can you see it?”

She looked up, irritated at the stars, wanting to get this over with and saw … nothing. Just the same massive starscape that haunted her every night, reminding her of things she didn’t want to think about.

“Baby, all I see are a mass of night lights,” she teased him, hoping so badly he’d hold her hand. He met her eyes and she gave him her best puppy face that she only let him see. It softened him and he finally took hold of her hand.

“Look,” he lined up her fingers with his, his touch relaxing her as he pointed her index finger from star to star. Lynn looked hard, but at the most, all she saw was a broken rectangle. This finding shapes in the sky must be a weird guy thing.

“See it?” he asked her again as she scouted closer to him.

“Hmm, I see,” she paused, thinking, “that star.” She pointed his hand at a star to the left of the sky. “That’s me. And that star,” she moved his fingers over to the star next to it. “That’s you. And this star,” she pointed over to a star that was more orange in color and a little away from the first two. “Is your brother once he’s over his little phase.”

Ryan’s look darkened for a moment, and she hoped he’d let her finish her point. “And we’re going out helping all the other stars shine brightly, fighting off the clouds and ugly meteor rocks trying to block them from being viewed. Capturing the fallen light, and stopping the asteroids from crashing. We were made to do exciting things, and we need to work together, trust each other, and forget about everything else.” It was probably the deepest thing she had said to him in two weeks, and she hoped he appreciated it. Lynn hated to let go and be the slightest bit emotional or dorky.

“I had a feeling that’s what you’d see,” he told her. She knew Ryan thought her mind was always on either making out or mission work, but she gave his hand one last squeeze before pulling away. It was way too cold to stay out here. Lynn’s skin was not tough like Ryan’s; it could freeze and ache.

“I’ll see you inside, please don’t stay out too long.”

He nodded, letting her go as he continued to stare out at the sky. She wondered where Ryan’s real thoughts were right now.

 

  • * *

 

 

Donna

 

Donna stared out her window unable to get to sleep. Every night she had a gray blur of nightmares, the same kind of dreams that had haunted her as a pre-teen were now back with a vengeance ever since Paul had died. The only thing that ever calmed her was drinking water and looking at the stars. She traced them with her eyes, finding shape after shape; she’d traced a big dog, a cat, and even found star outlines that looked like people. If only life could be as simple as the stars at night. Or if only Donna knew the mystery behind what she and the others really were.

It was amazing how her mind always reverted back to childhood things that calmed her when she wasn’t a little kid anymore. Tomorrow was the day she’d have to be grown up and stronger than ever. It was Christmas Eve, which meant her dad would be taking her to the Applegate house. Tomorrow she’d face Ryan and Randy together. The knowledge made her tremble.

 

 

Chapter Five

 

The morning of the Applegate Christmas Eve party, Donna tied up her shoelaces, ready to go running. Her dad was sleeping. It was only six and he always slept in on Christmas Eve. They usually didn’t start visiting his family and then her mom’s parents until noontime … and then they’d go to the Applegate’s.

Donna was awake; she hadn’t slept last night at all. She’d taken a long shower this morning after suddenly having live electric sparks come out of her bathroom’s light switch and into her hand, filling her with extra power when she’d been thinking about sitting across from them tonight … the monsters.

It was freezing now, and her hair was sopping wet, but she didn’t care. Ryan never tried to jog on her morning trail the days they had to see each other at family events. So it was the perfect time to move until she was practically flying. Not jogging like the old chubby girl she used to be who needed to lose weight or train for gymnastics. Today she would be sprinting. Her ability to run had been part of the reason she had gotten out of that power plant. If Donna didn’t have her dad, grandparents, or Spencer and Rebecca here, no doubt she would run out of this town and never stop. Her brother running away as a child finally was relatable now, and she wondered more than ever why he really ran.

She stepped out the door and found on the side of the doorstep, so she wouldn’t trip this time, a small card and a tiny gift. She knew right away who it was from and froze solid. How could a gift from her ex-childhood friend, and all the gifts he’d secretly given her when no one was watching, really be from a monster?

She felt her body fighting to turn and go electric right then. Good thing she was wet. Instead, she turned away and ran from her doorstep. She ran fast and hard, feeling her body partially charge up inside, fighting her outer wetness, and her whole being got lighter and lighter, making her speed double. She ran through the woods, tears trying to come out from her eyes, flashes of her life almost ending pouring into her memory. As Christmas Eve had come for so many today, the holiday was over for her before it even began.

Finally, Donna’s legs ached from running even though she hadn’t run away from the nightmare. Her hair was almost dry, her water bottle empty, and she knew she needed to get inside, her body naturally craving what was totally unnatural. Electricity. Electricity to get her through this day.

Her vision changed without her meaning it to as she walked toward her house like some kind of teenage electrical freak. Everything was black and blue, except for streams of light far away coming from her house, streams of electricity she knew she could mentally call to. God, how can this be my life? How can this be real?

If she called to those electrical particles, she knew they would instantly slither toward her until they reached her feet and she absorbed enough that she was no longer human anymore. Donna would become an unrecognizable thing, a creature made of electricity.

Instead, she closed her eyes as she walked ahead, forcing her vision back to normal, so she could stay human. Stay herself, at least for a few more precious minutes, and then—

Donna’s eyes were still closed as she tripped over something. Something hard that reached to her knees. Her gymnastics instincts and fright made her instantly tumble over it, and she landed on her feet and jumped around. What she saw before her was truly crazy.

A gymnastics beam.

Not her old, at home practice beam that she’d put together from a piece of shaky wood and two logs. No, this was a giant, beautifully crafted beam made of sturdy wood. It even had two side panel supports on it and had been painted her favorite color, a light blue.

Donna blinked her eyes, sure she was dreaming. When she finally realized she wasn’t, she hugged herself and looked around. Suddenly she had this bizarre and very real feeling of being watched, and felt small and alone on this strange winter’s day as the wind around her howled.

Unable to see anything around her with her normal sight except for a lonely road and the far off woods, her eyes went back down to the beam she should have been doing cartwheels over. Carved on it were four words, “Never forget your dreams.”

Right away when she saw the style of the carved words, she knew who it was from. Her heart started pounding like a rocket ship as she remembered the little boy whom she had built tree houses and secret forts with, all of which he carved his initials in. Donna felt sick to her stomach as her eyes went to the other tiny gift she had left abandon on the steps. Ryan had left all this. Which meant when Donna saw that gift this morning, Ryan must have been nearby getting ready to bring over the beam. A friggin beam from the best friend who’d stopped talking to her years ago; God, this was all so crazy. And they could have had an encounter … and he might have figured out then that she wasn’t human, just like he wasn’t. He was this monster who had tried to rip her apart not even a month ago. How could a monster have made a gift for her like this?

Trying not to process how this would have made her old self be filled with joy for not days but weeks, Donna quickly dragged the sturdy beam into her dad’s old garage. She pushed it behind a narrow pathway that was next to a pile of junk. Once it was out of her sight, she instantly felt better. Like it could somehow not be real. Her mind filled with a head full of gray dread; it was time for the holidays to begin.

 

 

Chapter Six

 

 

Lynn

 

Lynn faced her boyfriend, feeling so good, so hot. She was wearing a velvet, short black dress, with her hair curly and teased to match the latest style. She had made her breasts a D cup size tonight, always going back and forth changing them from a C to a D, depending on what outfit she was wearing. It hurt every time she forced her skin and bones to change and shift, but she didn’t care. This was her power, her Biomax ability, to change into any form she could master, and tonight she needed it to work for her benefit. To get the leading edge on her relationship again.

This was her Christmas Eve after all; she deserved some happiness while on a break from school and classes. They all did. Lynn had misted herself with the most expensive perfume one could find, and had plumped her lips up so her red lipstick would pop. My ability is by far the best Biomax power around, she assured herself. Any pains she felt when making the changes were necessary.

She went up to Ryan and kissed him, and finally, after a tense moment, he kissed her back. A quick, short kiss, but it was a kiss. He looked so handsome despite his refusing to wear a proper jacket and nice white shirt. But whatever, he looked so good she couldn’t wait to get him out of his outfit later. The only thing good about Christmas Eve was getting to wear cute clothes, and of course the anticipation for all the gifts. Speaking of gifts, she wore the Tiffany’s necklace Ryan had let her charge to his card as an early Christmas gift.

Mr. and Miss. Fantastic step aside, she thought to herself as they parted.

“I like this dress,” he admitted as she kept her arms tight around him.

“Really,” she asked kissing him on the cheek one last time; she smiled as she left a print of red lipstick where she had kissed him. “Would you like to know what I have on underneath it?” she whispered seductively, but before he could answer, the stupid Applegate family maid, Daisy, barged through the door.

“Oh!” she gasped, as if shocked that Lynn had snuck into their home early. “Ryan, I thought you were alone.” She frowned at Lynn. It was no secret her and the old bird hated each other. Better get used to me, she thought with an evil smile. I’m not going anywhere.

“You wanted me to let you know when Mr. Young and his daughter arrived,” Daisy said innocently as she made eye contact with Lynn and gave an equally condescending smile. “They’re here.”

Lynn’s entire body went ridged, pulling apart from Ryan as the maid left. He had wanted to know when Donna and her father were going to get here? Why should he even care? What, were they so weak and unprotected they weren’t able to drive a car without him worrying or feeling guilty? Lynn felt her blood begin to boil as her mood started to morph. They made eye contact with each other, hurt growing as Lynn refused to break down and act weak because of this. Her heart was pounding, and her skin yearned to unbend and twist back into her natural, real shape. Instead, she stood taller and got meaner.

“Don’t jump to conclusions,” Ryan started to snap in a low whisper. “Donna and her dad’s names were mentioned yesterday at the compound when the original Bio was recorded talking about wanting to come back here and—”

“Well you’ve got what you’ve wanted Ryan!” she spat, interrupting him as she hardened her lips with a fake smile. “Now you know that the handy man and his daughter are safe.”

Before he could warn her not to say anything cruel she walked past him, leaving his room, and walking quickly out into the open where Ryan couldn’t use his nerve bending speed without precious Donna seeing. He was forced to walk like a normal person behind her as she dashed down the stairs. “Don’t worry,” she whispered low, knowing only Ryan would be able to hear her with his abilities. “I’ll be on my best behavior.”

A half a second later, she found Mr. Applegate and Donna’s pathetic, once good looking and now very tired father greeting each other. When these two were in the same room, the same old time jokes and stories of the past started flying. Adults were so predictable this way … didn’t they know we are in a totally different future?

Before Ryan could stop her, she reached Donna, stunning her as she embraced her in a hug. Donna’s entire body froze as Lynn hugged her extra tight. “Donna,” she said loud enough for all the adults to hear. “What a pleasure to always see you here.” Donna said nothing as Lynn slowly pulled away from her and whispered, “Still wearing trailer trash ensembles on Christmas Eve I see, how you. Thanks for giving us all a good laugh at the tournament by the way.”

Donna’s eyes pulsed with her typical loser emotion. The kind of emotion Lynn was too strong to ever show. The girls continued to stare at each other, as Donna switched her face from hurt looking to pure numbness. Almost as if for once, she was choosing not to care. As if the loser could have bigger problems than Lynn always making sure she remained a nothing.

Ryan was behind the two girls, his face trying to fight his animalistic anger. Of course, with his abilities he had heard everything. This only made Lynn’s sneer heighten. Good, let him be angry. What was he really going to do about it?

“It’s good you two got to see each other for a minute,” Ryan announced loudly, “since this year, Lynn, you have to go and miss our dinner and all.” Lynn and Ryan’s faces met in shaded anger. She was stunned; he wasn’t really proposing she leave, was he? She looked for help from his father, but he hardly was paying attention or cared. As long as Lynn was progressing as a Biomax team member to help Ryan, Mr. Applegate never seemed bothered with whether Lynn was truly happy. That stung. She looked to Ryan, about to cut him off, but he was faster and crueler.

“What are you—”

“Don’t you remember your mom just phoned here,” he lied. “She wanted you to go home to your own family’s dinner. They miss you.”

As if Lynn’s adoptive parents gave a damn where she was. When she was in her true form, they acted extra racist toward her.

“I’ll see you later, Lynn,” Ryan said in a way that made her not being a part of tonight final. With that, the maid was at her side, grabbing Lynn’s coat and whisking her away with a smile. Lynn’s heart broke a little bit as Ryan finally put his foot down on her antics. At least that is what he would say he had been doing later, when in reality the blanketed truth was he would always choose his precious, childhood friend, Donna’s feelings over Lynn’s any day.

The minute she was outside in the cold, shivering herself into a frenzy, her heart throbbing with such anger and hurt, she couldn’t think to hold her shape. She let out a small scream as her skin snapped back, her bones shifted and stretched, and the agony of changing back into her true form began.

 

  • * *

 

 

Ryan

 

Ryan’s father sat at the head of table with Mr. Young right next to him while Ryan was next to Randy’s empty chair, across from Donna. This Christmas Eve pretty much blowed. He should be happy not having his annoying brother here causing trouble, but it wasn’t the same, and then when he’d heard what Lynn had said to Donna … It was pretty awful to have to kick your own girlfriend and team member out of a gathering on Christmas Eve, but her BS had to stop. As much as he tried not to, he cared too much about Donna to let her be put down one more time in the house they used to play in as children.

Donna wasn’t looking at him, she was sitting closer to her father than she’d ever sat before, and he could hear her heart racing. He had always pushed himself to ignore with her what his Biomax, animal engineered genetics, allowed him to pick up. Like an accelerated heartbeat. But with her refusing to make eye contact with him, without even thinking about it he was focusing on everything that was her. God, I’m losing it.

But something was wrong with his old playmate, and it was more than the death of Paul Cohen. He wished he could know what … he wished so many things he shouldn’t. He knew every second in shop class when he had built that beam for Donna he was getting himself into trouble, and yet he’d felt like he had to. Like he owed her so much more than that after what he’d put her through, things she couldn’t even fathom as she sat across from him now, completely disconnected.

He found his father’s eyes on him; apparently his staring at Donna was too obvious. His father nodded in a way that Ryan could almost hear the words coming out of his mouth over the holiday music and the smells of hot food. “Keep out of Donna Young’s business. It’s the only way you can let her go, and she can be safe. Don’t let her talk to you.”

And yet the image of her across the table refusing to make any eye contact, looking so out of it and lost, was in his mind like a cancer. He continued to listen to her heartbeat as it ate away at him. I have to find out if something really is wrong, then I can move on. At least, that’s what he told himself.

 

  • * *

 

 

Donna

 

Donna looked at her watch; time was clicking away so slowly. Every moment was a strain as her nerves pounded. Randy was a no show, which made things a fraction easier. Donna sat close to her father as she stared at Randy’s empty chair. It was so easy to recall last year, and every Christmas Eve before this. Randy would sip spiked eggnog as he’d mouth off, and Ryan would strain to keep his brother under wraps. The few glances Ryan had always given her back then, as their favorite childhood Christmas songs played, had made her face turn bright red with the best kind of nervousness. He had always given her this extra high, this great euphoria, but now … everything was sick and broken and twisted in the most devastating sort of way; and she was on edge having to sit and breathe here.

Mr. Applegate turned to look at her, and then his eyes fell on her neck. “Dear God, is that—”

Donna’s fist clenched, and she sat strait up, her body turning partially electric on the inside. Any second she’d go transparent, her vision would change, and she’d see all the electric molecules in the wall that she could already feel slithering toward her. She’d have to use them to get her father out of here, and then …

“Is that your mother’s necklace?” Mr. Applegate asked her, his words immediately relaxing Donna, though not too much. Her mind was about to explode from fighting such sudden adrenaline. She felt dizzy.

“No, I wish I could have found that thing. This is one I bought for Donna on the way home,” her dad explained.

Donna couldn’t form words to speak. She was doing such a horrible job of this, pretending to act normal, because she could never be normal anymore.

“It looks just like the one Violet used to wear,” Mr. Applegate went on, lost now in his own memories of Donna’s mother. Violet was her dad’s, and apparently Mr. Applegate’s, pet name for her mother; because her eyes were such a deep blue, some people mistook them for violet.

“I um,” Donna stood up, reacting to her dizziness as her body pushed to turn right in front of them all, to run through the walls and get far away from this moment. “I’m gonna go get some air for a minute.” She walked out of the room quickly, trying to force her feet not to move at a full on run.

Moving through the rest of the house was a blur. She made a quick stop at the humongous Christmas tree, and then was out one of the back doors she and Ryan used to sneak in and out of as kids; remembering that made her shudder.

It felt so good the moment she was able to take a deep breath outside. The air was chilled, freezing her as she went to lean against one of the giant trees. Her hair tie had fallen out at some point during her quick dash out, not that she hardly noticed right now as her long hair fell past her shoulders. The moon was full tonight and the stars in the sky were everywhere. She watched her own breath as she inhaled and exhaled, making steam.

It wasn’t until he was super close, coughing to let her know he was there, that she realized Ryan had followed her. She jumped in fear and she refused to turn around for a moment. The nails in her hand dug deeply into her flesh. Hopefully the pain would stop her from turning fully right now, but no doubt if he tried to touch her skin she’d shock him. Thank God he hadn’t tried to touch her in years.

“Hey.” She heard the awkwardness in his voice when she still refused to face him. In her mind, all she could see was the Ryan that had attacked her at the power plant. Whose body was throbbing, moving at a speed that was just as fast as her electric one, only he had moved like a wild animal. An animal whose face had been searing with death and strong victory for all who challenged it.

Finally, she turned around and saw … someone who looked like her old and perfect Ryan, her high school crush, and ex-best friend. His features seemed even more rich in the moonlight, but this was all a mask she realized now, and she was wearing a mask also.

“Hi,” she said back to him.

They looked at each other.

“I just wanted to feel the outside air, it’s so nice and cold,” she told him, even though by now the inside of her electric flesh had warmed her like wine passing through a vein.

“Yeah, if you like the cold it’s really nice out,” he agreed. She wished he’d go inside. Right as she made that wish, he took a step forward and she took a step back.

“Donna, is something wrong?” he asked her, but she couldn’t meet his eyes.

Yes, everything is wrong!

“Nothing that is a big deal,” she mouthed. He wasn’t buying it. Her mind flipped for an excuse. “My dad, um … just recently had another false call about my brother being spotted again. Turns out it was someone else’s boy, it always is.” It was the first thing she could think of and it was the truth.

“I’m sorry, Donna. I know one day they’ll find David,” he answered her. It’s what he’d always said every year since she could remember, and then he took a step forward again, coming closer and closer to her flesh.

“No, I don’t think they ever will,” she mumbled as she quickly wheeled around him. “We better get back inside.” She started walking quickly toward the door when his words forced her to come to a halt again.

“Are you sure that is all that’s wrong?” He paused for a painful moment, then continued. For the first time in a lifetime, his words sounded insecure. “I saw half of the gift I gave to you has been put underneath my family’s tree, unopened.”

She turned, heart beating so fast, she needed to say this now, say what she had never ever wanted to breathe in the past, back when she knew nothing. How the clueless Donna would hate these words … the Donna that had loved him.

“Making me a new beam in woodshop is the nicest thing anybody has ever done for me.” Her voice came out in trembles she didn’t understand. “All your gifts are, but—” But why do you do this to me? How can any of this be real? How can you really be the same monster that tried to … kill me. “It’s not like we’re really friends anymore, Ryan. Let’s face it, we haven’t been real friends or even talked in-depth in years. The gifts and pretending we’re not from two totally different worlds should stop.”

After Donna said it, she felt like she couldn’t speak anymore, couldn’t continue to stand there, couldn’t breath; this crushed her in ways she wished she couldn’t recognize, because in the most pathetic way she still cared about hurting him right now; even after everything. Her courage was drained, and yet somehow here and now she was staring at Ryan completely still.

Her words had taken him aback; she could see it all over his face, her old best friend’s face. As if she had been the one who cut things off years ago, when they both knew it was really him who had. His taken aback look cut into her soul, as if a part of her still stupidly forgot who he and his family really were, and what they had done.

Before she could think more about it, she turned around and went back inside, leaving him out in the cold all alone. Their chapter was done.

 

 

Part Two

What Is A Real Biomax Solider?

 

 

 

Chapter Seven

 

 

Rebecca

 

Rebecca woke, only half awake to the smells of Christmas. Her parents, who’d stayed in town extra long this holiday season because they’d been so worried about their daughter, called for her to get out of bed so they could start their dorky part Jewish part Christian holiday because her family celebrated both. But Rebecca, wanting nothing more than to keep her eyes closed, asked them if they could start a little later. Her mom agreed, and Rebecca’s mind fell back into deep, meaningless sleep. Her head was not cushioned on a pillow but next to a special computer tablet. One of Paul’s that he had built by hand.

She had been on it last night, partially researching things that could pertain to Donna, pertain to the whole mystery of the town … and partially just typing away numbingly, while she waited to hear that Donna had returned safely from a night of pretending to be normal at the Applegate’s. Donna had put on a brave face, and deep down in Rebecca’s mind after everything Donna had been through, Rebecca knew she could pull off sitting across from those wicked people and pretend to be normal. Donna was way stronger than Rebecca, who had been filled with nothing but tension and worry the whole night. Typing on Paul’s tablet, feeling the screen and buttons that he had once touched, seemed the only calming thing she could do.

Once she heard news that Donna was fine, Rebecca had fallen asleep dreaming about Paul, and about the day she’d first seen Donna turn into electricity and survive a deadly car accident. She’d dreamt about the way Paul had comforted her that day, and how he’d brilliantly discovered pieces of this mystery before she’d even told him anything.

She’d fallen asleep lastly dreaming about one of the times they’d kissed. The way his lips had felt so smooth and good against her own. How had she never had a crush on him, or even gotten a glimpse of who Paul really was, until after Donna’s accident? How did she not know until it was too late how much he was the best, most brave and brilliant, most perfect young man in the world? A boy she had only kissed a few times and that would never be enough. Rebecca had been robbed of the first person, and maybe the last person, her lips would ever touch.

She heard a noise, awaking her once more to the unfortunate reality, but she was unable to open her eyes. “Mom, I’m not ready to celebrate yet, please start without me,” she said groggily. She knew she no longer looked or sounded anything like her old delicate self, but what did that really matter. She heard the noise again; it shook her further out of sleep. “Mom!”

That’s when she opened her eyes, now fully awake, and realized it wasn’t her mother’s voice or presence waking her. Paul’s tablet was beeping … buzzing as it was downloading information that was partially burning up the motor. Her eyes still blurry from tiredness, she turned her lights on and waited for her vision to adjust, then looked at the tablet as she heard the sounds of old Christmas cartoons her dad loved playing loudly in the other room.

On the screen, staring her in the face, was a program that had started running on its own. Something Paul must have programmed or uploaded before he died. It was loading at a fast rate, and Rebecca tried hitting keys and opening different tabs and windows to try to understand what was happening. Her heart was trembling, a new life to her fingers as she tried to crack the computer code. A program was running that could have been either an upload or a virus; and the most haunting thing about it was it was titled with Paul’s name. The words “Paul Cohen” were flashing on and off the tablet’s screen.

Rebecca felt her heart shake as a part of her brain she’d been pushing down snapped back to life. Something was happening, she could feel it in her gut, in the deepest part of her intuition, and she had a feeling whatever this was, it would have consequences.

 

  • * *

 

 

Randy

 

It was early Christmas morning and small, cheesy little East Applegate was overly holiday decorated like a bad Christmas card. Randy walked through it like the Grinch with a terrible hangover. He’d spent the night at one of the hot female soccer players homes, leaving before she woke, and wanting nothing more than to just crash at his family’s guest house and sleep all day.

Finally when he arrived, he tried his key to get inside and found it no longer fit into the door’s keyhole. What the … ! Had his moron father really changed the locks on Christmas Day? Of course he had. Randy felt his groggy temper rise. He could always burn his way through. In fact, that was probably exactly what his dad wanted so Randy would be forced to come stay at their family’s main mansion instead. Where he would be monitored twenty-four seven with all his dad’s psycho cameras and spy gear.

I don’t think so. Cussing, he turned and started walking toward where his dad would be; not at their home on Christmas morning but toward the power plant. Hopefully he wouldn’t find his brother there with him.

 

  • * *

 

 

“Well, I have to say I’m impressed,” Randy heard his dad call out to him from the plant’s monitoring room. It was a giant space underground, with tall ceilings covered from head to toe with monitoring computer screens. They monitored every room in the entire power plant, and not to mention extra screens that showed special key points in their town, their surrounding towns; and even key points that spread throughout the US.

Right now Mr. Applegate was staring at the screen that showed his son was walking up from behind him. “Merry Christmas. Have you come for your yearly lump of coal to burn?” his dad said with the same cocky smile Randy had always hated.

“I’d settle for the new quarters of your precious power plant burning down, but I see you’ve reengineered all your doors with a special un-flammable steel just for me, Pops. I’m touched,” Randy spat sarcastically.

His dad’s smile grew because he knew he was majorly pissing his oldest son off. “I’d love to say the millions the government has given me to reinforce this place is to entertain you, son, but after we found the Electrolite intruder could go through all the walls except for our newly built ones, we realized restructuring the entire plant was a must.”

“Wow, one intruder made you do all that,” Randy shrugged, making sure he put on a face that showed his father he didn’t care. “If I hadn’t tried to kill the guy, I’d probably shake his hand, considering how small he’s made you look. Division 6 must be pretty pleased.”

Those final words successfully made his dad cringe and Randy felt proud of himself. If there was anything Randy’s mid-life crisis, head honcho dad hated, it was to hear that he was small, or that he was one step behind, which brought Randy to his next dig.

His face fell on the computer screen of the fake bedroom his dad had set up in the plant’s lowest, most guarded level where a set of two kids, a brother and sister, were sitting. Scientists were with them, trying to make the kids perform tests they’d disguised as childish games and toys. The two munchkins refused to budge. They knew they were prisoners here. Just like Randy himself had always known he was a prisoner.

“You still don’t know who they are do you?” Randy said to his father as his hand touched the screen. “Or what government made them?”

His father walked up beside him. He was a half-foot shorter than Randy and yet his dad’s presence still seemed over powering. Mr. Applegate studied the screen like an angry Mad Hatter. “Every government that’s tried to imitate my work and create their own version of Biomax soldiers or enhanced human beings has a signature. The signatures are usually found in their points of failure, whereas my signature on your kind is at my point of success. I’ll figure out where these children are from. It’s not as if humans with super life changing abilities can just pop out of nowhere; or suddenly evolve an ability for no reason. There is always an explanation.” His father repeated what Randy already knew, “And when we figure out who my copycats are, we’ll capture their resources and fix their mistakes.”

“We … ” Randy turned to his father with the most hateful eyes. “Please. You’re talking to me, not Ryan. What makes you think I’ll ever feel like doing anything you say?”

His father let out a tired laugh, his eyes all mocking. “Oh yes, I know. I’m always the bad guy to you, son. Just like I was always the bad guy to your mother when all I wanted was to save her.”

“Don’t!” Randy barked, now truly tasting the big root to all his anger. “Don’t you dare mention her name!” Randy warned as all the papers on one of the monitoring tec’s desk started to smoke, and then catch on fire. The technician jumped, quickly rushing to put out the flames and save his files as Randy’s dad just kept on talking like nothing out of the ordinary had interrupted their conversation.

“And all I want is for you to be a part of this family. To work hard to do great things and protect your brother. He’ll be going with your other teammates for his first out of state mission soon. Are you really going to have him do this alone? Where he could get hurt?”

Randy’s heart started beating. Why should he care what danger his dad constantly put his brother into? Not to mention all the people his brother stayed in public contact with? Why should Randy care what happened to anyone in this town? Problem was, he did.

“What mission is that, the same first mission you had me do after you got Lea killed and I returned from the compound?” His father’s silence clearly marked that Randy knew exactly where this was going. “You made me escort someone else back to those cells. So I could become the same kind of mad man you are. Now you’re gonna have Ryan and Lynn be the main muscle and do the same thing to these kids aren’t you?”

When his father said nothing, that confirmed it. Randy let out a hateful laugh, as if this was all a joke. As if transporting an unbroken person with abilities was no big deal. It was.

“Not until I know where they come from,” Mr. Applegate told his son as they both stared at the screen of the two children. They were just staring at one another in the room, as if they could communicate with their minds. Maybe they could.

Then suddenly the screen went black. Every screen in the monitoring room went black like it had the day the Electrolite intruder had walked through one of their main base walls. Only this time only half the monitors came back on. The other half were rebooting, with something loading on the screens, some kind of computer program.

“What’s happening?” Mr. Applegate barked at his technicians. They all squirmed around, hitting all the touch screen monitors, trying to figure out what was going on. Turns out someone really was trying to make Randy’s dad look stupid as everyone tried to figure out who that was and what was taking place.

Randy’s eyes went from screen to screen as someone yelled, “It’s some kind of virus loading into our data frame again! Just like the one the Cohen boy had uploaded and hacked us with before … ”

“That should never be able to happen again with all our new equipment!” Mr. Applegate snapped as almost every screen that was uploading this super virus filled with a name. The name made Randy freeze, like an old ghost was coming to play on Christmas Day. The name that was spelled out on the screen was PAUL COHEN.

Then the monitor that showed those two mysterious kids he and his father had been watching, showed that the doors to their room were clicking open. Shit! Then they were running.

“Those children are powerful and dangerous!” his father snapped as Randy swore and took off, knowing his brother would be here with his inhuman speed any second. They’d have to chase these kids down, having no idea what their abilities or what kind of Bios they were; and they’d have to do it fast! As much as he would love to see his father even further pissed off, if these kids got one step outside the plant, everyone in their small town could be in danger again, all on Christmas Day.

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

 

Spencer

 

So Spencer had bought himself the Christmas gift of all Christmas gifts. A car! An old, crappy car, but a car nonetheless; and after a day of normalcy with his mom—or what they considered to be normal anyway—he wanted to show Donna and Rebecca his new wheels ASAP. He also selfishly wanted a drama free—no end to their lives, weird deadly soldiers/big town conspiracy—day.

So he turned on his favorite old-timer Linkin Park songs and cruised to the radio. He’d driven out of town at the fastest speed his car could go, and now that he was almost out of gas he had to turn back. God, do I really have too? He cranked his music louder as he made a long, slow U-turn and began driving back into town. Back to the land of the lost, where the bullies in high school have secret powers and everyone worships them, Spencer thought sarcastically as he began to drive near the power plant.

Just seeing the big building at a distance was enough to make his palms sweat; making Spencer feel like a powerless boy. He sped up fast, hoping and praying now he had enough gas to get past this long stretch of field and back into town. Geez, why didn’t I think about having a full tank of gas business before I left? Because as usual I’m an idiot.

He pushed himself to relax, and after a few moments he was past the plant. The place that was full of memories he hated to think about. Memories of Donna trying to survive against super powered freaks, and Paul … I can’t think about this right now! Keeping his peddle to the metal, Spencer entered the road that ran along the side of the woods. Yes, power plant of hell out of sight!

He took a deep breath of relief, making a fast turn, but then Spencer felt his brain scream for him to stop before he could even command his foot to get off the gas and on the brake. Before he could even compute what was happening.

There was a girl, the size of a little kid, running across the road and into the woods, right as Spencer’s car was speeding up to her. She had appeared out of nowhere. Spencer yelled out, “Stop!” as if the little girl could hear him from inside his vehicle.

He slammed hard on the breaks, but she was moving, trying to cross the road despite his car slamming into her, and he didn’t have enough time. OH GOD! Please!

Just as he felt his car jerk as it hit the obstacle—a human being—the impossible and most terrifying thing happened … again. Her body became transparent, as her big deer-in-the-head-light eyes made contact with Spencer’s. Instead of turning electric and glowing, her entire being lost it’s light, becoming like water, a puddle of see-through flesh, and then she was melting. The little girl’s body just collapsed as if she’d been turned by a wicked witch into a boiling pot of water.

Then Spencer ran over her, all the way over. His car finally screeched to a stop about twenty feet ahead as Spencer felt his neck and body bounce back against his seat harshly.

What the hell! What the hell just happened?

And then everything Spencer never wanted to relive was about to take place all over again.

 

  • * *

 

 

Donna

 

“Donna, you have a phone call,” she heard her dad call to her right as she got in from a long run. Her dad had made them his traditional Christmas chocolate chip pancake breakfast earlier, causing Donna’s stomach to feel so heavy, she knew she needed to run some of that bad eating off ASAP. Her instincts to stay healthy were still with her, even after everything.

What’s the point of eating healthy if I have nothing to look forward to? she thought earlier before her run. Survival, because someone has given up their life for me and there has to be some kind of reason for it. And … keeping my dad and friends alive, she constantly snapped back at herself.

“Just a second, Dad,” Donna told him as she went to the sink and washed her face. She felt the water fill her pores, going inside of her; stopping her flesh from wanting to buzz and become electric and alive.

She figured it had to be Spencer or Rebecca when she answered the phone, instead she was surprised.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Donna, it’s Cody.”

Donna felt all the water on her forehead disintegrate as her heart began to speed up. Holy crap, was she dreaming?

“Cody Lighter?” she asked, even though she knew no other Cody, and knew without a doubt it had to be him. Right away, she could see his smooth, hot country boy face in her mind as every part of her began to flush.

“Yeah, I hope you don’t mind, but I got your number from your receipt when you were in my family’s store.”

Donna had no idea what to say. “No … I mean … I don’t mind. Um, Merry Christmas.” Gosh, she was such a dork.

She heard his voice chuckle. “Merry Christmas, East Applegate girl.” Somehow he sounded so cool when he said that, unlike Donna.

“Me and the guys are actually having another special holiday bond fire in a few days and I was wondering if you wanted to come with me?”

Come with him, like a date? Donna’s heart rate doubled as she felt live electricity suddenly everywhere in the room. Her vision changed as she saw electric particles bouncing around in the phone she was holding, and before she could even think about what she was doing, they slithered into her hand, becoming a part of her. And then the phone sparked, breaking as the line went dead.

“Oh crap!” Donna screamed. Her uncontrollable powers had just hung up on Cody and ruined everything. I don’t even have his number to call him back!

“Donna, what’s wrong,” her dad came into the room and spotted the sparked out phone.

“The phone, um, broke.”

Her dad looked at the fried wire. “Wow, how did that happen?” he asked her in puzzlement.

Donna ignored him, going to every other phone in the house and checking them. None of them had a signal; she’d short circuited everything. Great! How could Cody ever call her back now? She felt devastated. No, I have to fix this …

“Dad, do you think you can fix this, today?” she asked. Surely he could get this done.

“I think I could if I had some electrical wire.” Her dad scratched his head as he spoke, still trying to figure out why all the phones had sparked.

“Do you think any store in town would be open today that would have it?”

“Well it is Christmas morning, honey, but … Maybe the Gilbert’s store would be open today.”

Yes! Donna thought as she dashed outside like a crazy person, without saying another word. Of course, the Gilbert’s shop would probably be open for a few hours at least. They were their town’s only hardcore atheists and the kind of people, like Randy, whose faces soured upon the mention of Christmas.

Donna couldn’t believe she was heading to their store with such quick walking and determination, but for God’s sake Cody Lighter may have just been asking her out. Something about that made Donna feel so normal and far removed from her current real life. Could he seriously be interested in her? Why? More importantly, would he call again or even want to talk after she had caused her phone to hang up on him?

Donna breathed a big sigh of relief as she walked through the Gilbert’s chiming doors fifteen minutes later. Their store was an undecorated, dusty little hardware place. Not a single holiday tune played on the radio as Mrs. Gilbert lifted her head from the paper she was reading. Without even saying hi, her eyes returned to reading the news.

Wasting no time, Donna mouthed a silent hello and then headed toward the wiring section. She knew from her dad’s instructions what to buy, and her eyes searched as she looked for it fast. It wasn’t until she heard some kind of pop to her right that her vision went to what had appeared beside her, further down the hall.

There was a little boy, she didn’t know how old he was, maybe twelve. His face was dirty, and he was wearing a big brown coat as he fussed with something. Donna looked back to the shelves fast as the boy made eye contact with her. For some reason Donna’s instincts told her she was intruding, yet her mind told her to get a closer look at this kid, so she looked again.

She didn’t know if it was his urgency that held her eyes, or the fact that she had never seen him before in a town where everyone knew everyone, or at least they thought they did. Donna felt her feet actually move a step closer to him. What am I doing? she wondered. That’s when she looked down and saw what he was fussing with in his over sized coat. His hands had grabbed a pair of sharp pliers and he was trying to cut something off his wrist. Oh, my God! It was a set of weird looking handcuffs. A deadly chill went up Donna’s spine and all the stored up electricity in her body started to churn.

There was a chiming sound that echoed through the store as both Donna and the boy heard someone else enter. Then there was this strange current in the room, like something was going down. The boy looked Donna straight in the eyes. There was something off about him, something about his face that seemed older, wiser even though Donna could have been his babysitter. He continued to fuss with his cuffs, and that’s when he finally spoke, “Better hurry up and hide,” he told Donna matter-a-factly, as if he had serious business to do. “They’re coming.”

Donna’s heart accelerated as she continued to stare at him dumbfounded. What is happening here? And then the sound of a loud pop, like a microwave explosion erupted all around the boy’s skin, filling Donna’s ears as she forced herself to close her eyes. She found her electric body bracing itself, as if it understood more what was about to happen than her actual human brain.

In an instant, somehow, within the explosion the boy was gone. Pop! One second he was there and real, the next moment he had disappeared. It was like he’d been sucked out of reality.

Before Donna could even fight to process what she’d just seen, panic seeped into her skin like darts as she heard the sound of not one, but many people coming. Oh God, someone’s coming right now!

Mrs. Gilbert’s crackled voice was angry. “What do you mean leave?”

“It will just be for a moment, ma’am. The boy stole something from the plant, something that could be radioactive.” Oh Jesus, the plant? The power plant agents are here? How, how did I walk into this?

“Well, I never!” Donna heard Mrs. Gilbert hiss, not convinced. “There’s nothing but children in my shop, not criminals!” Her voice faded, as if someone had pushed her out of the store. Donna’s mind became disoriented, like she was in the eye of a storm that was about to cave in. She heard footsteps all around her, getting closer and closer. She didn’t know where to go, or how to hide. The little boy’s instructions seemed useless. “Better hurry up and hide, they’re coming.”

“That Bio kid is in here.” It was upon hearing Randy’s voice that her electric consciousness took over, forcing her to react in ways she didn’t even want to remember she could. She watched as the outline of her hands went completely see-through. She felt the familiar feeling of her molecules bouncing around. The next second her skin was filling with light and going completely transparent, all traces of being a human girl in her appearance left behind.

“Even if he tries to teleport out, those tracker cuffs will throw off his ability and bring him right back. Cover every inch of this store and we’ll find him!” Randy was instructing from around the corner. Donna’s time had run out.

Petrified, she took a step back, going through the wall of the store that she’d forgotten was behind her. She stopped somewhere in-between the wall as she felt the electric wires in it feed energy into her soul and pop as they short-circuited.

She pushed so her vision would stay normal as she stood like an electric ghost, hidden within the wall, as she witnessed the inside of the store go completely black. Randy pretty much jumped out of his skin at the sudden loss of power. Anything he and the other men were saying went through Donna’s one ear and out the other as she watched Randy quickly respond. He held up his hands as live sparks of fire appeared hovering above his flesh. They danced around his fingers as he formed a deadly fireball he was no doubt ready to throw the minute Donna so much as breathed.

That’s when the popping sound returned. A few men shook and braced themselves as if they were crowding away from the microwavable noise. Suddenly, as if he had been slammed back into reality, the boy reappeared as he continued to shake and fuss with his cuffs, trying to get them off. It was like he had never really been gone. The air around his skin still seemed shaky, like a bomb had gone off around him and he’d survived.

“Get him quick before he has enough energy to try and teleport again!” Randy yelled at the men as they stared dumbfounded for a moment. Donna found herself staring dumbfounded, too. Where in the world had the boy just come from? It’s one thing to see people appear and disappear in movies, in reality it was the kind of thing the mind didn’t want to swallow and gave an instant headache.

The little boy looked right up at Randy as the men started moving toward him. “You know I’m not going to make this easy!” he said to Randy as if he knew him, though Randy’s face didn’t show any signs of personal recognition.

Then the kid was taking off, and boy could he move. He dove under one of his attacker’s legs, running straight forward. One power plant agent came toward his left. He grabbed for the kid but missed him as the little one easily jumped around shelves; he could pivot over obstacles like a gymnast. He seemed to turn this into a game as tons of suited power plant agents pursued him. Donna, on the other hand, was trembling. She had a power and had faced these people before, yet now she was alone and felt helpless, visions of tinted gray crashed into her head, paralyzing her as she was seconds away from getting caught herself.

Randy actually was chuckling as he watched the boy in the dark manage to elude every single agent. For a moment it was almost as if Randy was rooting silently for the tyke to escape. All the while, Donna was sure Randy was somehow aware of her presence. As if any moment he’d reach through the wall and choke her. Yet he didn’t turn around, he only looked to the left and then the right. Seconds felt like minutes as Donna waited, and the little boy was almost to the door. He was going to escape, like Donna had the day she broke into the plant, only this time no one was going to die.

For a moment, she actually felt real hope, until suddenly Randy had had enough. As the boy was about to turn the handle on the door, with one wave of Randy’s hand a wall of fire shot out of the ground and rose up, covering the door like a furnace sheet. The boy’s path was blocked and he had to jump back to stop from being burned. Unfortunately he jumped back right into the agent’s hands.

“It’s not over!” the little one screamed as the men grabbed at his cuffs. They had some kind of computer code on the side of them and when the agents pushed it, they tightened around the boy’s wrists, causing him to flinch. Then they pulled out some kind of liquid medicine inject. They shoved it into the boy’s shoulder, as sweat dripped down their foreheads from being so close to the wall of flames. The faster they worked, the quicker the fire inched toward them.

“They’re going to escape you know. All the kids and Bio soldiers you’ve locked in that compound, that your father keeps taking. They are going to be let loose. No one can stop it. Hundreds of people will get hurt if you don’t act!” the boy spat at Randy as he looked him dead in the eye. It was like the growing fire and being caught and injected was the least of the boy’s problems.

Another deadly tremble went down Donna’s spine as she grasped what she was seeing and hearing, and what was about to go down. Move, help him! a part of her conscience commanded. Yet she was still, her mind seeing everything in partial gray. She was petrified. If she had been in her human body she was sure she wouldn’t have even been able to scream. And what did that little boy mean about Randy’s father taking all the children?

The lights in the room sparked and began to flicker on and off. Somehow she knew her body standing in the wall was doing this. She needed to go now if she was going to live through the end of this day, yet she stared at the whole scene like a prisoner. She could see the little boy’s eyes more vividly now as he and the agents were lit up in the dark room with a fire wall behind them. They were so blue they looked almost purple, the color very familiar in Donna’s mind.

He looked right toward the wall were she was hiding, face strong as he breathed, “Escape!” She realized with growing horror the little one knew that she was there, watching, and had no idea how to stop this. Donna was a failure. Another person was being taken by these monsters.

The boy’s eyes finally fluttered shut and he passed out, then Randy and the men were moving quickly. One man was fussing with the boy’s cuffs, trying to make them go even tighter around the small wrists.

“Lay off,” Randy snapped at him as the fire wall behind them finally ceased and died down, leaving the smell of rotting smoke around them. The whole room went dark again.

“The tighter they are the further they’ll throw off his teleporting abilities when he wakes. It’s your father’s orders,” the man tried to say as Randy took a deadly step closer to the agent.

“I said, lay off. This kid’s not going anywhere.” Randy’s eyes sparked with flames inside his irises; making him look more powerful and even more life threatening. It was like he had been made in the image of a living god. Donna couldn’t imagine, even completely electric and lit up, that she could ever look so paramount. The agents seemed as afraid of him as Donna was, yet they were all grown men twice Donna and Randy’s age. One more tense breath and the agent loosened the cuffs around the boy’s skin. Then they carried him off as quickly as they could. Randy made a disgusted face and pulled out his phone.

“Lynn, are you with my brother?” he barked as Donna found herself staying majorly still and listening to every word as her heart raced. “Yeah, I got the kid, crisis adverted on my end, of course. Now please tell me you idiots found his sister before all hell brakes loose on the one holiday everyone is home and could see something.” Randy continued to talk as he walked out of the store’s doors.

Donna stood waiting in the wall for several minutes. Her heart was beating so fast that it actually hurt as everything sunk in. She felt like the most small, useless, helpless person. Here she had a power, and yet she was too lost and afraid to move, and her dumb mind was seeing gray again like it had when she was a child, after she had come home from New York for the first time. When her whole world had been crushed.

Never wanting to remember that past, she finally took a step out of the wall of the store, when she was sure everyone was gone; and into the stinging cold air outside. Once she was sure that the coast was clear, she dropped to her knees as more gray pressure pushed through her mind and she tried to understand everything she’d just somehow witnessed. Get a grip, she tried to order herself, but she couldn’t.

A short time later, Donna was knocking on Rebecca’s door. Her hands trembled. She knew Rebecca probably wouldn’t be strong enough to handle this, but where else could Donna go? Rebecca’s mom answered the door with a plate full of sprinkled Christmas and Chanukah cookies in one hand, and Rebecca’s three-year-old cousin Millie, in the other. Rebecca’s extended family always visited over the winter holidays because it was the only time her parents weren’t traveling or out on digs. Millie was stuffing her pale face with cookies as she smiled at Donna.

“Merry Christmas, Donna, so great to see you,” Rebecca’s mom said with a tired smile.

“Hi,” Rebecca’s little cousin tried to mouth as she gobbled down more sweets. Her tight, curly red hair was just like Rebecca’s. This three-year-old was so happy and innocent, at home in the hands of a loved one, Donna had never envied a toddler so much in her life, and she knew that captured boy today would have envied this little girl also.

“Merry Christmas, is Rebecca here?” Donna started to ask as Rebecca’s mom’s eyes were adverted. Donna turned around and saw Spencer was jumping out of a car in the driveway and walking up to them.

“Hey, Spencer,” Rebecca’s mom waved and Millie imitated with a miniature wave, too. “Looks like the whole gang’s here. Let me go grab Rebecca.”

Donna had so much to say and yet all her and Spencer could do was stare at each other awkwardly as Millie, Rebecca’s cousin, stood in the doorway looking at them. Millie smiled and giggled as her body danced to the holiday music Rebecca’s dad was playing in the background. Then little Millie pointed up to show Donna and Spencer what was above them: a piece of mistletoe.

“Ki … kiss,” Rebecca’s cousin spit out as she laughed.

Donna and Spencer seemed to both be in the same state of fear and panic somehow, their bodies both tired, yet leave it to Spencer to entertain this. “Wow, this just got awkward.”

They both stuck their hands in their pockets in sync, stepping away from the mistletoe and ignoring the strangeness of the moment as Rebecca made it to the door, computer tablet squeezed tightly in her arms. She was ready to go.

When the door was closed behind them, Rebecca was moving the fastest, like she was on a mission. Could it be she actually had news that could top Donna’s, and whatever Spencer was trying to say? It seemed so, as they rushed away from her house and into the woods.

“We need to be far away from my house where no one could be hiding any bugs,” Rebecca informed them in a rush. She was referring to before Paul’s death when apparently he’d told Rebecca he found a listening device hidden in his house.

“Didn’t Paul build a bug detecting gizmo to help us with that?” Spencer asked her.

“There are over a thousand different types of listening devices on the internet alone, you think we should chance something like that on a device that can detect maybe ten types?” Rebecca snapped at him.

“Good point,” Spencer’s voice rolled on as he began to say what he needed to get out. “So I got myself a car for Christmas, and I took off with it, breathing in one moment of teenage male freedom. As I passed the power plant on way home, something happened. I saw something!” Spencer started to tell them.

“Wait, what time was it?” Rebecca interrupted him.

“What time? What would that matter?” Spencer snapped at her as he tried to catch his breath as they continued to move through the trees. They finally all stopped moving when they reached the lake in the middle of the woods. The sound of rushing water from its streams felt safe. Ironically, it was in this very lake not too long ago that Rebecca and Spencer had abandoned Donna when she’d first transformed. Boy, how the world had changed since then.

“The time matters because this afternoon Paul’s handmade tablet turned on on its own, and a virus uploaded from it. Something he must have programmed months ago to upload by itself in case he was … ” Donna could tell it was hard for her to finish, “ … gone. I have no idea what the deactivation code could be, but the virus uploaded somewhere before I could even move to stop it or understand. All I could see from the code is that it uploaded via the internet to a server north of town.”

“North of town as in the power plant?” Donna asked, as another piece of the puzzle began to soar into her average, not genius smart head. Rebecca, like Paul, thought like a genius.

“Yes, all I can understand is that it either opened, or tried to shut down something’s systems.”

“Shut down, as in made way for something to escape?” Spencer breathed before Donna tried to speak and she wondered how he could know.

“Possibly,” Rebecca nodded as Spencer ran his fingers through his hair and looked like he might pull it out of his scalp. He was dripping with sweat, obviously overwhelmed.

“Not possibly, definitely. I don’t know what the odds were that this could happen, but this kid …” Spencer started to speak as Donna’s mind flashed to the little boy, and she was about to interrupt, but Spencer spoke over her, and that’s when she realized he was talking about someone else.

“A little girl ran out into the road, coming out of the woods right behind the plant. She didn’t care that I was in the middle of the road and coming straight toward her. I tried to stop my car but I couldn’t, and as I hit her, the most messed up impossible fiasco happened! Again!” Spencer continued to tell them about how he swore he saw a child, no older than twelve, turn into a liquid puddle of water. It sounded like the most unbelievable thing, and yet they all knew it was real. Then he described how the little girl’s body restructured, becoming human again, unhurt as she ran away into the woods.

This was all too much. How many more abilities could people like Donna possibly have? “So the girl is gone?” Rebecca was asking Spencer.

“As far as I know. Once she took off I had the feeling it wasn’t smart to stick around.”

Then it was Donna’s turn to tell what she had seen. Rebecca and Spencer stood there overwhelmed as Donna retold her whole story.

“Well Merry ‘F’you’ flipping Christmas to us,” Spencer finally piped in when Donna was done. “Is it too much in this freaky sci-fi hell hole to have a normal day?” he went on and complained.

“You’re sure they didn’t see you in that store when you caused the power to go out?” Rebecca asked Donna.

“If they did I wouldn’t be here,” Donna said as an evaporating tear left her eye. She felt so bad for not being able to help that boy. I should have been able to do something, her mind hammered. The next moment, Rebecca’s tiny hands were around Donna. Somehow, again, Rebecca had transformed into something strong, and now she was giving Donna strength.

“So a super powered water girl escapes,” Spencer went on talking with his comic book terms. “And a microwavable teleporting boy is taken. You don’t think she’s the sister Randy was talking to Lynn about?” Spencer asked as he seemed to be comprehending in his own mind the gravity of Donna’s story.

“It would make sense that she would be,” Rebecca chimed in when Donna didn’t answer.

“Oh and that’s the tree topper for us here, not only are the jock princes of this town, the Applegate boys, super freaks, but our town’s way too hot evil cheerleader is one, too,” Spencer reminded them. Donna wished he wouldn’t refer to Lynn’s over obvious hotness when so many scary things were erupting around them.

“The little boy, before they took him, said that Randy’s dad couldn’t keep taking kids, that they were all going to be let loose. What does that mean?” Donna asked Rebecca desperately as her own mind seemed to be clicking. It flashed with every missing or runaway child case her dad had a file on. All those people, and Donna’s brother, they couldn’t be the ones the boy had been talking to Randy about. But then her imagination was shaking her, giving her the new possibility that her brother had never run away at all. Maybe Mr. Applegate had taken him. Donna felt sick.

She looked at a quiet Rebecca and Spencer, desperately waiting for them to say no, that it was way too unlikely. They didn’t say a word as Donna’s mind was filled with memories that were gray in color. They cleared for a moment and she remembered through a child’s eyes seeing her dad fall apart when he realized her older brother wasn’t in her home. Donna should have been too young to remember, and yet she always had somehow.

As her grandmother rushed over to watch Donna while her dad and the whole town searched, someone else had shown up on her dad’s doorstep before he’d even had a chance to call the police. Her father’s best friend, Mr. Applegate. That was the first day she had met her godfather’s son, Ryan. He was Donna’s age and played with Donna every day while her father left their town to search for her brother.

She remembered being hypnotized by Ryan’s bright blue eyes and perfect child looks, even when he was a young boy, and even on the day her brother had disappeared. Ryan had filled her world like a miniature sun, and he had let Donna fill his world back then. From that day they’d been inseparable; and she’d always over the years had asked him as she watched her father fall apart, “Do you think they’ll find my brother?”

“I know they will,” he would tell her.

His words and the revelation that her godfather had showed up so quickly crushed Donna all over again. It was one sick truth that they had powers and were bad. It was another to think that her whole life turning out like this, even the reason her dad had first brought her to the city where the terrible thing had happened, was all because of the Applegate’s lies. All this time it was a possibility that Ryan, Randy, and their dad knew where David could be.

Donna felt something inside her burn, and then she couldn’t control it, she turned electric as her brain fought with what she was trying to remember, and every memory was tinted gray. It was her own head’s way of dealing with fear, it always had been before Donna had discovered she had powers, and she hated it.

“Wow, Donna, calm down for a second!” Spencer tried to come to her, maybe calm her down and hold her the way he had after Paul’s death. Donna had gotten used to holding his hand in school as they pretended they were a couple, but Spencer couldn’t help her now. She’d shock him if he touched her.

“You need to calm down so we can figure this out,” he tried to tell her.

“I cannot calm down anymore,” Donna spoke through her electric body. This was it, finally her breaking point. She felt all her fear burn into something angry.

“Holy crap! Donna it’s too freaky when you talk and your body’s like this,” Spencer rambled.

Ignoring Spencer she turned to Rebecca. “I need you to figure out if it could be true. Please figure out for me if all this time it could have been the Applegates who took my brother, and if he could still be alive.” Donna was talking like her father, a mad man who still prayed his son was out there somewhere. It was a whole other Pandora’s box compared to their problems right now, but Donna selfishly didn’t care.

Rebecca just nodded. She and Spencer both seemed almost afraid of Donna right now. Of course, they always did a little bit when she was in this state. The only one who hadn’t been afraid had been Paul, and he was gone.

And then Donna was taking off with her electric speed, running through the woods, using all her electric energy until it was gone.

 

  • * *

 

 

Spencer

 

Spencer watched Donna, an electric transparent ghost with no form, jet off. Watching her was like looking at an alien whose home wasn’t from here, and yet somehow she was still their Donna, a lost teenage girl. And then she was gone, her bright light finally disappeared as she ran away.

Spencer himself was terrified and in wonder of what possibly could come next. He had to act like a man here, even as he sweated pathetically and had no idea what to do. Rebecca stood next to him, the smallest and yet smartest person he knew out of anyone. Her body language was like his own, like she was trying to get a grip, and probably wishing she was far away from all this. That she was on a beach in Florida. No, those were Spencer’s own thoughts and prayers.

Rebecca’s bright green eyes instead were turned on and there was a spark in her he hadn’t seen since before Paul’s death. “We have to figure out what kind of virus Paul planted, and what he’s doing right now.” She spoke as if he was still alive, giving Spencer the chills. “What his computer program is doing I mean, and these kids, where that little girl could be, and if Donna’s hypothesis about her brother could be correct. If it is,” she breathed the next words they’d all been trying to figure out, “it could explain why she has abilities, and why Paul believed she was our only hope.”

Oh, God. Spencer took a deep breath, wondering what title wave was about to come down on them now.

 

  • * *

 

 

Donna

 

Donna didn’t know what she was doing, she couldn’t think. Nothing made sense anymore, and her head and emotions throbbed. I’m losing it. Yet she had to know, did the Applegates take her brother and had Ryan known about it this whole time, throughout their entire childhood friendship?

Nothing seemed more vile and awful if this could be so. Donna didn’t know who Ryan was anymore, but as she thought about the gifts he’d gotten her for Christmas, gifts that could have been derived from guilt, Donna’s imagination was telling her this could be very true. She was sure, with the right look, if she pretended to be clueless and asked Ryan about her brother this time, knowing what she did now, maybe she’d see it on his face. See a yes somewhere in his eyes. That he knew possibly where her brother could be. Or please, God, maybe this was all wrong.

Like a lamb walking up to a lion’s den, Donna didn’t know where she found the courage in her hands; which looked normal and human, but were filled with electricity inside. She knocked on the Applegate’s giant door as she forced herself not to cry.

After a moment, Daisy answered. She smiled when she saw Donna until she read that something was very wrong. Of course Daisy, the Applegate’s maid, could sense true emotion. She was the most human and humane of any of the Applegates, because she really wasn’t an Applegate at all.

“Donna, what’s wrong?” Daisy asked her as her arms fell around Donna in a comforting hug.

“I just, um, need to talk to Ryan. Is he here?” Donna asked her as an old memory fell into her mind. He had to be here.

“I’m afraid he’s been dealing with a small Christmas emergency at his father’s business. Here, come inside and I’ll call on the intercom and see if he’s back,” Daisy told her as she lead Donna inside and left her alone for a minute. Yeah, Christmas emergency, as in taking children with impossible powers prisoner. Donna found her eyes exploring the giant mansion like she never had before. For once, she was sick of keeping her head down and being a shy nobody when she came here. This large, lonely castle was void of any Christmas music or homey smells of cooked food and cheer today.

No, today her eyes were exploring every nook and cranny. It was ironic how Mr. Applegate kept this place seeming so ancient and yet Daisy had to try to locate people by intercom. That’s when it occurred to Donna that no doubt this place was full of cameras and she was being watched. She wondered if it was Ryan, Randy, or her godfather on the other end.

She closed her eyes for a moment, forcing herself to look with her electric sight. The whole place went black in her mind like a photo developing room, and that’s when she saw millions of cells of electricity come to life. Donna could see the hidden cameras and microphone pieces everywhere. Every inch of where she stood was covered with something electrical. It was like a den of recording secrets, and Donna wondered where in this den the secret that lead to her powers and her brother was.

 

  • * *

 

 

Ryan

 

Ryan was in his father’s den with his father behind him and Lynn beside him. Lynn was studying a file on the brother and sister that had escaped today. In Ryan’s entire life of living here, he’d never heard of an intruder breaking into the power plant or escaping. Yet both things had happened now with the Electrolite and now these kids in a short time. Something was majorly wrong and it was written all over his father’s face. Could a program some hacker implanted in their system in moments really do all this? Lynn seemed highly elated at the opportunity for an extra mission, even if it was just catching kids to make sure they were safe, she was psyched like a lab mouse wanting to perform.

“I ran around every inch of this town and the towns around us twice with my speed, and nothing,” Ryan was telling his father.

“I don’t believe that girl would leave her brother. Those kids are telepathically linked and strongest when together. She’s nearby, for all we know she’s right outside this room,” Mr. Applegate was saying as he was about to drink a glass of water. He stopped himself and put the glass down, imagining something as he looked at the contents inside the glass. This was because the little girl they were looking for had the ability to morph herself into a watery fleshy liquid. She could travel by sewer or drain pipe. It was enough to make Ryan’s father lose his thirst for a good while.

“I guess I’ll take off and look again, hope to catch her in her human form,” Ryan told his dad as he stretched his legs and readied the animistic part of his brain to take off. His calf muscles shifted in anticipation as he let his senses expand. When he let them do that he truly felt free, free until he heard an extra heartbeat in the house.

“Either way, where we take the boy his sister will follow, I’m sure of it,” Ryan’s dad said with a smart smile, his wits returning to him again. He was never discouraged for long. Like Lynn, everything was a challenge to him.

“Are you suggesting we use the boy as bait to draw his sister out?” Lynn asked, she spoke and breathed strategy.

“Richard,” Daisy’s voice came on over the load speaker as Ryan was already on the move out the door. She was the only one who still called Ryan’s dad by his first name because she had worked for their family since Ryan’s dad was ten.

“Yes?” he spoke through his computer tablet, sending his answers to the kitchen location of their home so Daisy could hear him.

“There is a visitor here for Ryan. Is he with you?” she asked.

Already Mr. Applegate was navigating their house’s cameras with the slide of his finger. With the flick of his wrist, the motion sensor he had in his office projected what was on his tablet to the giant screen on his wall. He flipped through an image quickly of every room in the house, zeroing in on who was here before Ryan could breath out her name.

“Donna Young.”

Donna hadn’t come to his home without her father since she was twelve. Something was off. Ryan instantly felt the pain of the words he well deserved last night upon seeing her.

“Tell Donna Ryan’s leaving for an out of town trip and can’t see her right now.” Mr. Applegate’s words froze Ryan’s feet.

“So we’re still going to transplant the boy then, even if we don’t find the girl by night fall?” Lynn asked Mr. Applegate with a hateful voice as she ignored Donna’s presence and Ryan’s reaction. She would hate Donna even more for this, Ryan could feel it.

“I want to go see what’s wrong,” Ryan interrupted over his father’s answer. His words came out stern and angry, his voice inhumanly deep, surprising himself as he continued to stare at Donna on the screen. He could sense something was very wrong, everything in his gut told him so.

Donna’s eyes were all over the room and then ironically they stopped right on the camera that was zeroed in on her, as if she could see it even though it was hidden in a wall, and she knew she was looking right at him. That is impossible, Ryan told his imagination. Then suddenly Daisy was by her side, telling Donna Ryan was leaving town. His feet were almost out the door when his father’s own stern voice stopped him.

“Whatever the reason that she is here, it’s a human, normal matter, and you are not a normal human Ryan, never forget that. Your animalistic instincts to constantly protect the wrong person will get them killed. Just like how your brother got Lea killed, so many years ago. You have a mission to do right now, there is someone with abilities similar to your own that needs you.

“Worry only about searching this entire area again and finding that little girl before one of our enemies learns that we had another hacker breach and come here knowing our walls are weak. They could try to kidnap this child and take what we’ve been fighting for.” His father’s tone was stern and final, cutting Ryan like a blade as he continued to watch a very lost and possibly even angry looking Donna walk out of his house, and out of his life.

Ryan didn’t want to watch her walk away on Christmas Day, didn’t want to chase down a child on the run. He selfishly just wanted to enjoy a normal holiday. Then of course, his girlfriend’s words cut the room in half. “Yes, Ryan, for God’s sake listen to your father. Let her boyfriend, Spencer Klingalsmith, tend to poor Donna Young. They are together after all. You need to forget about her,” Lynn hissed. “They’re not like us and they never will be,” she went on as Ryan’s dad’s own heart seemed to skip a beat at the mention of one of those names. It had to be Donna’s because why would Ryan’s dad care about Spencer?

“What, are you losers just going to stand there and look at mind numbing data while that girl runs free?” The air in the room rose at least ten degrees as Randy entered from the other door. “Or do you expect me to continue to do all the work?” And with his brother’s first footsteps into their family’s house in weeks, it was truly time to get down to business. Still, Ryan wished for once he could take off this burden.

 

  • * *

 

 

Donna

 

At home, Donna bypassed the table of sugary sweets from her grandmother that had put her dad into a deep slumber with Smoky on the couch. She went straight into her dad’s room and to the boxes of missing kids stuff. Like a maniac, she took the box that said David on it and went into her room. She was going to find a clue, something that fit the Applegates to this crime if it took her the entire night. This day reminded her of another terrible day from her past …

Five years ago when she was twelve and had returned home from the city for the first time, Donna had needed to tell Ryan that something terrible had happened to her. Something she’d witnessed that had broken her and was making her see gray every time she closed her eyes.

She tried going to Ryan’s door, but he had refused to see her. Not knowing where else to go, Donna had stayed at her grandmother’s before the first day of middle school, and she’d been eating her grandmother’s sweets almost obsessively, because at that time Donna just needed something of comfort, something to do with her moments that would make sense.

Then on the first day of middle school, Ryan wouldn’t let himself be around her at all. He had suddenly made new, cooler friends. He’d also shot up in height a full foot and lost the small amount of acne that had been on his face the year before. And his voice had also gotten deeper. Ryan had gone through puberty, becoming a man before all the other boys in school had even gotten close, and everyone had taken notice. Everyone, including the kids in the older grades that wanted to be his friends; that was such a cool and strange deal.

Every time Donna tried to get his attention, as if he’d been commanded to, he’d look away; always leaving the room of the class they had together before she was even quick enough to get up. Donna had wondered back then what she had done. Had she become some kind of freak that her best friend wouldn’t talk to her? And Ryan had been even more than a “normal” best friend, he’d been her first kiss. And he’d told her never to forget something, something she couldn’t remember … she didn’t understand.

By the second week of school that year, their town had gotten two new kids at the same time, which had been quite the scandal in their classes. One was a beautiful little girl, who Ryan had welcomed into his new group of friends instantly, Lynn Eris. Even at thirteen, Lynn too seemed older, something was different about her, and she had seemed breathtaking until she opened her mouth. Donna soon found out Lynn wouldn’t stand for her trying to get her old friend Ryan’s attention.

“Why don’t you just keep eating all those sweets your grandmother packs for you baby cow or should we call you the chubby gymnast?” Lynn had teased Donna after one week of knowing her. “No one here wants to speak to you.” Ryan hadn’t been there when Lynn had said that, but the hysterical scene of the new girl becoming cool and Donna’s being defined as a loser spread around their small pre-teen campus like wild fire, and then nobody wanted to talk to her.

Totally lost, Donna had stayed in the middle school bathroom long after the bell had rung one day. She had cried and cried and cried, and strangely, her salty tears had just made her want to eat more. What other comfort did she have? That’s when Donna met Spencer and Rebecca.

Rebecca had walked into the bathroom and had paused and stopped when she saw Donna. Rebecca had always hung out with younger kids because she was the tiniest girl in their class and looked a lot younger than everyone else did. Turns out she had been smarter than all the students put together.

“What’s wrong?” Rebecca had asked her.

Until then, Donna had never told anybody what had really happened in New York. She answered, “Every time I close my eyes, my head throbs and all I see is gray.”

“Why don’t you try reciting an arithmetic, or counting backwards from ten thousand,” Rebecca suggested. “My mom always tells me when things seem bad to try and get your mind off yourself and onto new things. It’s something I have a lot of trouble doing, too.” Rebecca admitted as she dried Donna’s tears away. Then she’d recited an arithmetic in a whole other language. That day Rebecca would soon become the most interesting person Donna would ever know in East Applegate. Her parents were geologists and had traveled the whole world.

When Donna and Rebecca had left the bathroom, they’d found Spencer, the other mysterious new kid, outside in the halls. Spencer at the time had refused to go to class. He apparently was from a bright, cool, and sunny place called Florida, and was boycotting his mom’s sudden decision to move there. The three of them all became instant friends, though Spencer had never quite opened up completely, there had always seemed something very secretive about the reason his mom had really come to their small town.

Yet, with all the bullying that was ahead of them, they’d stuck together for each other. Of course, that was all until the accident, when at sixteen a car came speeding down the road and had slammed into Donna head on, changing her life forever.

Somehow, now in present time, as she searched through bizarre pictures that her brother had drawn of himself before he ran away—where he’d sketched multiple images of himself on a single page—Donna refused to bury her panic in eating or feeling depressed. Instead she searched for information until her mind was so tired that she finally, after a long while, fell asleep. That was until a loud clatter in her room awoke her in the middle of the night.

Donna woke up and found herself face to face with a little, violet eyed girl.

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

Donna wanted to scream but found she couldn’t as she jumped off the bed and onto her feet. Her body became lighter, as light as a cat as her gymnastics training allowed her to land right on her toes. She knew she was growing more and more transparent by the minute, her shock and fright giving her most deadly secret away. God, she needed to learn how to control her powers more before she turned into an electric ghost in front of the entire town.

Donna blinked to make sure she wasn’t dreaming as the violet eyed girl moved closer. She wasn’t afraid of Donna at all, and that’s when Donna knew exactly who she was: the boy’s sister. Which meant she had a power too, and that she, like Donna, was some kind of solider.

This was the one Spencer had crashed into. “Donna,” the little girl breathed. “Donna Young?”

How does she know my name? This whole thing couldn’t be real. How was it others like Paul, like this girl and her brother, seemed to know more about Donna than she did herself?

“How do you know who I am and where to find me?” Donna demanded once she found her voice, and immediately felt a stroke of guilt. She didn’t understand where it came from, but it was there. Guilt for letting this girl’s brother get taken without acting to stop it, guilt because there was a child in front of her and Donna didn’t know how to help. But what could she do really? She wasn’t trained or brought up to know about any of this.

“My brother told me, we communicate telepathically. He told me about your abilities and where to find you. I’m Alexis, by the way, and my brother’s name is Xander,” she went on to tell Donna as she held out her hand like a little business woman for Donna to shake. Donna just stood there dumbfounded at the twelve year old.

Hold on … did she say her and her brother communicated telepathically? As in heard each other’s thoughts? Jesus, what else was it people like Donna were able to do? Boy would that ability be convenient for Donna to find her own brother.

“How is that possible? How does your brother know about my powers?” Donna demanded. “What are you two?”

“We’re like you, Donna,” the girl reminded her of the obvious. Donna made herself human so she could pinch herself. God, she wasn’t dreaming at all. “We’re Biomax soldiers.”

Biomax? Donna had heard the term at the plant when she had tried to brake out Paul, but it was still a blurry foreign word to her. What is Biomax, and what does it mean?

“Biomax as in the study of live organisms multiplied over and over again to the max or to their maximum potential.” Alexis answered and Donna literally jumped. Was she able to read Donna’s mind too?

“So that’s what we are?” Donna tried to understand this. A Biomax solider. Donna and these younger children weren’t even adults, how could anyone give them the label of solider? Then again, this girl’s brother had moved like he knew how to evade people in that store. He’d have escaped all those agents if it wasn’t for Randy, all without his powers. That’s more than Donna could ever do. And the way this little girl was acting so professional now … Another deadly chill went down her spine. Donna was untrained, a mystery, and knew nothing.

“Well, we’re a little more than that,” Alexis said matter-of-factly, as if she was teaching Donna something. “But basically yeah.” There was something about her that, like her brother, made her seem smarter, more in control and aware of what was going on. Like they were above what was happening around here.

“How are you and I … how are we like this?” Donna found herself asking desperately. She wanted to know, needed to know, these answers no one had been able to give her. Paul probably could have filled her in, but he was dead. Donna had failed him.

“I don’t know all the answers like how you’ve come to be this way,” Alexis disappointed her, even though it was hard to judge whether she was telling the truth. “But my brother and I were born like this, and we need your help.”

“My help?” Donna breathed the words as a string of fear pulled at her. The last time she’d tried to help someone they’d died and Donna had barely gotten out alive.

“Yes, my brother has been taken,” Alexis went on. “But I hear what he hears. They are moving him to New York tomorrow whether they find me or not. Now that the power plant has been jeopardized, they need to move him to where they take all the other kids, to the compound, and they know I’ll try to come after him.” Something in the girl’s tone reminded Donna of her own past thoughts. The thoughts she’d had when Paul told her someone would come after her if anyone ever learned about her powers. “Run, tell no one about this! If they catch you, they’ll kill you!”

Those terrible phrases ran through Donna’s imagination as gray flashes erupted in her head. Would they kill this girl if they caught her, too, or worse? And what was it they were doing to her brother now? Dear God, they were just kids. They looked about same age Donna had been when she and Ryan had still been friends, and then something terrible had happened to her.

“We need someone else with powers, someone stronger than us to catch them off guard. You’re the one that Paul Cohen saved. It was his virus that freed me. I need you to help get my brother back before they bring him to Decacrowns. Please help me save my brother,” Alexis pleaded as another mind numbing, migraine worthy, terrible gray flash went through Donna’s mind like a thunderbolt.

Donna had to hold her head and turn partially electric to get it to stop. Once the molecules in her body came to life and her body grew electrically light again, she could think, and thinking had a deadly price right now. “What did you just say?” she asked Alexis, who was taken aback by Donna’s strange behavior.

“I asked you to please help me save my brother. Please, Donna!” she began to plead but Donna stopped her.

“Before that, where did you say they would take him?”

“Decacrowns, it’s this—”

“Old, shut down hospital in New York City,” Donna finished for her and the little girl nodded.

“The compound’s underneath it. How do you know that already?” Alexis asked her as she took a step closer.

Something rocked Donna’s entire soul. “Because I’ve been there before, or near it anyway.” Donna remembered running toward the giant, old building in the city when the most terrible thing had happened to her childhood self. Something that couldn’t possibly be connected to her powers, the Applegates, or these kids, and yet it all was. This was a key to the puzzle Donna couldn’t handle, and now she knew without a doubt what she’d have to do.

“I’ll help you.” Donna breathed the heavy words, and she knew where she would have to go. A place that held dreams of freedom, big odds, and an old ghost of a nightmare: New York.

 

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Shock Me - Special Edition- Exclusive Bonus Materials Included

A promising gymnast, Donna Young is a shy, quiet nobody from the wrong side of town. The only exciting thing in life is her secret friendship with Ryan, her childhood crush. But after the accident—one that should have killed her—she discovers she has impossible powers! Why now, at sixteen, can she transform into something shocking and inhuman? Donna doesn’t know how to use her new abilities or who she can trust, but unveiling this mystery might lead to conclusions about Ryan that are deadly. Rich kid, Ryan Applegate is the most popular guy in town. He has a face that should be on a poster in every girl’s bedroom and dates the hottest chick in school. But ever since the big explosion at the town’s power plant, Ryan has been keeping secrets of his own, that if revealed could force him to choose between his family and the girl he's forbidden to love. As their electrifying puzzle unfolds, so unfolds a town where friends become enemies, and enemies become unrecognizable and intertwined. Tortured heroes just might be the bad guys, and Donna discovers that her and Ryan’s secrets are powerful enough to destroy everyone... including themselves.

  • ISBN: 9781310061066
  • Author: Ashley C. Harris
  • Published: 2015-09-22 23:05:19
  • Words: 93690
Shock Me - Special Edition- Exclusive Bonus Materials Included Shock Me - Special Edition- Exclusive Bonus Materials Included