Son of Shadow
Hero Of Light
C. Louis S.
Cover expertly illustrated by Mitchell Ellis
Copyright © 2015 by C. Louis S.
All rights reserved.
who deserves more credit than she’ll give herself
and to Alexis, Charlotte, Raquel, and Sophie
“THEY’RE NOT GOING TO LET you play, Leon, ” Aidan said. “You’re a lantern, dude. Nobody wants you on their team.”
Undeterred, Leon continued through the door in the chain-link fence that surrounded the school’s stadium.
“Remember last time? I mean, just look at you. You’re barely 12, you’ve got chicken legs, and when you run, your head looks like a red mop flopping around.”
“I’m not listening, Aidan,” said Leon. “I’m going to try again. You start work on Monday, and then we’ll never get to play together.”
“It’s only a summer job. We can play when school starts again. Maybe you’ll be bigger by then. Look, this is for your own good. I don’t want you to end up eating grass again.”
“I’m gonna play today. I can feel it.”
“All right, whatever,” Aidan sighed. “Let me go talk to them first.” Aidan teleported to the crowd of players in the middle of the field. He apparated just on the outskirts of the group and edged his way in.
Leon exhaled nervously, straightened his gym shorts and adjusted his blue t-shirt. Everyone else looks so … athletic. I just look scrawny.
Tired of waiting, Leon bolstered his courage and jogged over to the group of kids in the middle of the field. It was almost dark and the stadium lights were already on. He passed the small phone-charging stations next to the bleachers. A mess of cables and phones were piled all around them.
Some of the kids in the crowd were bent over, breathing heavily, sweating. Tommy, a senior, stood in the middle negotiating who was going to play next and who would be on what team. He was large and rugged. His sweaty, white A-shirt was almost ripping from the muscles in his chest. All the kids were much older and bigger than Leon, but this one was a giant.
Last time Leon tried to play, Tommy only needed one finger to push Leon to the ground. Leon rubbed that spot on his chest, remembering the pain. He wished he had cool superpowers like the rest of them. He just wanted to be able to play shadowball like Aidan could, but Aidan was right; he was only a lantern. He couldn’t fly or teleport. No one wanted a lantern on their team.
Leon fought his way to the inner ring of the circle. Aidan noticed him and shook his head. His chances of playing didn’t look good.
“Hey, Tommy.” Aidan got Tommy’s attention and then pointed at Leon.
“Him? He’s your little brother?”
There was silence. Aidan didn’t say a thing, but his glare said, “I told you so.”
“He’s serious?” Tommy laughed. “Didn’t you get the hint last time, flashlight? We don’t let lanterns play.”
“I’m more than just a lantern,” Leon squeaked.
Tommy sneered. “Let me see what you can do then.”
Leon flushed bright red. He was sure his freckles were hidden by the deep embarrassment. Why did I say that? Think of something, quick.
Leon walked over to the kid with the ball, another senior who was tall and lanky. He held out his palms to the senior’s face and shone a bright light into his eyes. The boy was blinded and dropped the ball to shield his eyes. Leon quickly snatched it and presented it to Tommy with a smirk.
The crowd burst into laughter. Tommy laughed and Aidan chuckled nervously.
“Not a bad trick, flashlight,” snorted Tommy, “but you ain’t gonna play. Maybe you should go talk to Kaz Warwick. He’ll give you a real power.”
The crowd roared again. Tommy was bent over in laughter. “Yeah, he’s a genetic malfunction,” someone in the crowd shouted. More laughter. Everyone pointed and laughed at Leon.
“I’ll be better than you someday. Just you wait. I’m gonna have all the powers and then we’ll see who’s laughing!” Leon started walking towards Tommy. His face was scowling, his fists clenched. Aidan’s arm stopped him and pushed him back towards the bleachers. “Let go of me. I can handle him.”
“Stop it! They said no. You can’t play. Let’s go.”
“Listen to your brother, little guy,” said Tommy between fits of laughter.
“No. I’m going to play.”
Everyone laughed, but before Leon could push closer to Tommy, Aidan wrapped his arms around him. There was a sudden whooshing sound and they apparated near the bleachers at the base of the stadium. Leon took a step towards the laughing crowd of kids, but Aidan’s tight grip told him not to try again. He turned around and walked towards the chain-link fence. He had failed again.
They walked along a quiet street that ran the length of their small town named Bethel. Leon was playing games on his phone, as was Aidan. Street lamps lit their way. They passed no one, but high above their heads they heard an aeronaut fly by. Large pine trees filled the groomed yards of the houses along the street. The one-story homes had electric candles in their windows but lights from within shone brightly to the street. At one intersection Leon looked down to the main street a few blocks away and saw just one car. A speeder ran by it and it blasted its horn and swerved.
Leon wasn’t doing very well in the game. He was distracted, brooding on his failure and his destiny of being consigned to bullying, depression, and self-loathing for the rest of his life.
What’s a lantern good for? Nothing. That’s me: good for nothing.
“It’s all right, man. You’re still young.” Aidan hadn’t looked up from his phone. “You have plenty of time to get bigger and stronger. Then maybe get really good without any power.”
Leon snorted. “Yeah right. You know only people with cool powers can play.”
“Well, playing shadowball isn’t everything, you know,” said Aidan.
“Dude, it’s not about playing shadowball. I just …”
“You want a cool power. Yeah, I know.”
Silence, except for the sounds of the games on their phones.
“Do you think Tommy was right?” Leon looked hopefully at Aidan. Aidan was tall for his age with dark hair like Father’s. Sometimes Leon thought that people wouldn’t even think they were brothers, except for the small patch of light freckles on the bridge of his nose. Leon’s whole face was covered with dark freckles, but it was the only thing that linked them together.
“About getting powers from Kaz Warwick?”
Aidan sighed. “You’re green. Not even Warwick with his millions can change that. It’s who you are.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You’re a splincher.”
Aidan playfully shoved Leon. “I told you not to call me that. I’m a dumbledore.”
“Same thing,” Leon punched back. “But seriously, I’ve heard that Kaz Warwick uses dark energy and that gives him all nine powers.”
“I don’t know about that dark energy mumbo jumbo. Warwick invented the technology. He has to know how it works. He just gave himself all the powers.”
“How about the Firebolts? They have more than one power. Why can’t I?”
“They’re his team, duh.”
“Well, I’m going to find out, Aidan. I’m going to learn to use dark energy, so that I can have all the super powers.”
Aidan laughed. Leon wasn’t laughing.
Aidan rubbed his short hair. “You’re not kidding? Man, that dark power stuff scares me. I’d stay away from it.”
The Secrets of Dark
LEON WAITED IMPATIENTLY FOR HIS parents to go to bed. He hadn’t heard their door close downstairs, so he sat at the desk in his room. The glow from his phone shone in his eyes. He should have been reading the library books in front of him, but without his friend Randall around, reading about dark energy in books wasn’t nearly as exciting.
World History by Kaz Warwick Volume I and The Secrets of Dark by Aria Shaw were still opened on his desk, but Leon started playing a game on his phone. It was a simple game. Run through the level, avoid the obstacles, smash as many robots with a hammer as possible, and earn upgrades. At the end of his first run, Leon earned ten seconds of basking. This meant that he could choose a color and for ten seconds his phone’s screen would shine that color intensely. It was the most rewarding part of playing these games.
He chose green because that’s the only one that would enhance his superpowers. After ten seconds of being exposed to this shade of green light, he could feel the green energy within him grow stronger. His flashlight would last a little longer or be a little brighter if he wished to use it. Use it for what? Someday I’ll be able to choose a better color.
And suddenly he heard it. Mother and Father’s door closed which meant they were off to bed. They would stay in bed with their phones for another hour, but they probably wouldn’t hear anything over the videos they would be watching.
Leon slipped down to the unfinished basement.
In complete darkness, he sat cross-legged on a rug. He slowed his breathing to a rhythmic beat. It sounded in his ears like the tick tock of a soothing clock. He was focused, but he didn’t know what to focus on.
He pictured himself apparating around the room. He pictured himself using his mind to move objects. He pictured himself floating above the carpet and then soaring out the window into the sky.
Leon peaked through one eye at the dusty cardboard box he had put near him to see if it had moved. His eyes hadn’t quite adjusted to the lack of light, but he was pretty sure the box was still where he put it.
He closed his eye and concentrated again.
Lift the box. Fly. Teleport to the chair.
He felt nothing.
Frustrated, he tried to remember what Randall had read from the library books. Something about getting the dark energy into your body by calling upon it and willing it into you.
“Oh great Dark Energy,” Leon began. “If you can hear me, please enter my body. Make me fly. Make me teleport. Make me mindbend.”
Next, he tried sucking it in through his nose. He breathed deeply as if pulling smoke in through his nose.
Next, Leon tried reaching out with his whole body. He didn’t know exactly what he was doing, but in his mind, he was using his body as a magnet to pull in dark energy. He pictured his body as a sponge, soaking up all the dark power around him, if there was any.
Leon felt something. He felt the room get even darker. He didn’t dare open his eyes, but he didn’t need to. He felt something. With his mind he was persuading it to enter him. He coaxed and pulled it into him.
His body felt empowered, strengthened. It was like his reserve of green light that he felt within him, but different. There was more of it, too. He would have had to bask for hours in green light to get this much power.
Suddenly fear overcame his concentration. It’s too much, he thought. Too much. He couldn’t handle this much power. It would overcome him. It would crumple his body like paper. His body shook. His mind turned to despair. His breathing became short and uncontrolled.
No! More power. I must have more. I am more than a lantern.
He took command of his mind and body. He took a deep breath and then controlled his breathing once again: long, slow breaths. He focused his mind again on his task, and his body followed. It ceased shaking and instead relaxed.
Shoulders dropped, arms elevated ever so slightly, and legs relaxed open.
Nothing was happening. He peeked at the box again, but it was still in the same spot.
Teleport. Mindbend. Fly.
The dark energy continued to soak into his body. His muscles began to burn like battery acid. He felt like he was going to burst. But he kept going. He pushed on through the pain.
Apparate to the chair. Fly. Move the box. Teleport. Fly. Mindbend.
Suddenly, as Leon felt like his body was actually bursting, he opened his eyes in pain and saw a green, glowing, translucent object in his hand. It disappeared almost as soon as it appeared.
Leon scampered backwards, breathing heavily. He felt that his reserve of green light within him was gone, as well as the dark energy that he had gathered.
As Leon’s breathing slowed, he was able to think a little more clearly. The glowing object had been an exact replica of the box that was in front of him on the floor, but the real box hadn’t moved.
A smile crept across his face. That was cool! I don’t know what it was, but it was awesome.
WHILE DOING MORNING CHORES, LEON received a message on his phone from Randall. It said they should meet in the park later that day. Leon sent a message to Mother in the other room.
Mother: What are you two going to be doing?
Leon: Just riding our bikes around the park.
Mother: Okay. Just don’t be out too late.
Leon: Thanks Mom :)
Mother: Honey, I know you’re disappointed about your color, but that doesn’t change who you are.
Mother: If you ever want to talk, I’m here for you.
Leon put the sponge down. It doesn’t change who I am? Who am I except a lantern? Being green is the worst. What good would talking about it do? I need to learn to use dark energy so I can get the other powers, not talk about how “it’s okay to be green.”
Leon picked up the sponge and finished his chores. After lunch he grabbed his bike and took off down the street. I wish I didn’t need a bike. If I could fly or apparate wherever I wanted to, I wouldn’t need this bike. I could go anywhere. Stupid bike. Stupid being a lantern.
Down the street, around the corner, around another corner, and three doors down was Leon’s target. Randall’s house was smaller than Leon’s. The grass was a jungle and paint was missing from the crooked shutters.
Leon knocked on the door and the door opened almost instantly by Randall’s mother. She was dressed in a flower-print blouse with her brown hair down at her shoulders. She smiled warmly and ran up the stairs so fast that Leon almost didn’t see her go. She returned just moments later to say that Randall would be right there.
When Randall appeared he was wearing shorts and a t-shirt that caught Leon’s attention. It was worn and black and had a cool yellow and black symbol on the front.
“Batman?” Leon asked. “I thought only old people liked that.”
“Yeah, I used to watch it with my grandpa. It’s cool. Ready to go?”
They tore down the street in their bikes with the mountains behind them and just a few wisps of clouds in the sky. At the edge of the park they hopped the curb and raced down the sidewalk. Leon could hardly wait for them to reach their favorite tree. A speeder raced past them going the opposite direction and the strong wind left in the runner’s wake blew Leon’s hair in his face and forced him to pedal harder to maintain his speed.
The speeder’s wake had also scared a young boy off his bike just ahead of them. Randall stopped just short of the kid and got off his bike. Leon continued forward, staring incredulously at Randall. What is he doing? The kid’s fine. We’ve got important things to do today.
Slowing down to wait for Randall, Leon watched as Randall picked up the boy and his bike. Leon waved Randall on to hurry him up, but Randall ignored him and made sure the boy was okay. Not only did Randall pick the little boy up, but he also wiped the rocks from the scrape on the boy’s knee. He smiled and said something that sounded encouraging before the boy got back on his bike and rode off.
“What, you’re a hero like The Avalon now?”
“Trying,” said Randall. He smiled playfully before picking up his own bike and hopping on again. They were almost at the tree. An aeronaut streaked overhead just above the trees causing the leaves to rustle loudly. Leon put his hands up to pretend to grab at the person and Randall followed.
“I wanna fly!” Leon shouted at the flying girl that was now too far away to hear.
Their tree was so big at the base that they could duck behind it and not bee seen from the sidewalk. It made a perfect place to talk. They ditched their bikes at the sidewalk and ran behind the tree.
“Last night I got so close. I could feel it. There was so much dark in me. It was … it was unbelievable. I thought I was gonna burst.”
Randall puffed out his chest and stood up. “Oh yeah? Watch this.”
He found a leaf and a twig from the ground and placed them in the palm of his hand which he held out to his side. He closed his eyes for a moment and then watched the astonishment grow on Leon’s face as he lifted the leaf and twig ever so slightly off his palm with only a thought.
They only hovered there for a moment before dropping back into Randall’s palm. Sweat had beaded at his temples and he was breathing heavily, but the smile on his face couldn’t get any wider.
“You’re a mindbender!” yelled Leon.
Leon and Randall pumped their arms and jumped up and down triumphantly. They shouted to the mountains and the trees. They gave each other high fives. Leon begged for more.
“I can’t yet. It’s hard work, you know? I hear it’s like a muscle. You have to use it more and more to get it stronger. But here, let me play a little on my phone and recharge.”
Randall pulled out his phone and began playing a game in order to win precious seconds of basking in blue light.
“How did you do it?”
“I don’t know. Just the same things as you. You know when you get all that darkness in you, and it really starts feeling heavy?” Randall asked, not looking up from his phone.
“Yeah. What do you do then?”
“I just start thinking about mindbending. I just think about the twig floating off my hand.”
Leon thought for a moment. “Well that’s what I do. I just start thinking about all the powers I want. I want to fly and teleport and have telekinesis.”
“Maybe that’s the difference, Leon. I just think about telekinesis. It’s like I imagine the twig floating.”
“Just that? You only want to mindbend? I thought you wanted all the others.” Leon looked confused and disappointed.
“No, dude, I do. But just one at a time. You know?”
“I guess. Man, I wish I could try during the day. Right now. I wish I could just suck in all the darkness everywhere and be like fssshh.” He lifted his hands and strained his back as if he were lifting something heavy.
“Yeah. That would be awesome. I’ve tried it, but I don’t get anywhere with all this light. It’s gotta be after sunset.”
“I know! Me too.”
They flopped back onto the dirt.
“Man, so now you have two. You’re a bubble, but you can mindbend.”
“Well I’m just starting with telekinesis and force shields aren’t that cool.”
“But it works. Now we know you can get more than one power. My brother was so wrong.”
Leon pulled out his phone and began playing a game where you have to fly a bird through obstacles to get points. When he earned enough points for basking, he chose blue light this time. After the time was up, he was disappointed to not feel any reserve of blue light within him. He had a reserve of green light from the games this morning, but the blue light didn’t make him feel anything different inside.
Hours later, Leon got a message from Mother that he meant to read and respond to, but soon it was out of his mind and he kept making Randall show him the floating twig trick dozens of times. He had to recharge with the blue light in between each time, but he seemed to get better at it every time. He tried heavier and heavier objects, but after a while he got weaker and weaker until he could barely lift the twig even after resting for half an hour.
“Hey, we should totally have a sleep over tonight so we can practice together after dark,” said Leon. Leon sent a message to Mother.
“Awesome. My house this time. Let me ask my mom.” Randall typed on his phone.
“I’ll invite Carter, too.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t,” said Randall.
“When we were studying about dark energy at your house he didn’t even read with us. He was totally bored.”
“Yeah, maybe not.”
Randall’s phone buzzed. “My mom says it’s okay at my house.”
Leon’s phone buzzed. “My mom wants me to come home to talk to her.”
“Do you think she’ll let you?”
“I bet she will. I’ll message you when she says yes. Dude, we’re going to be playing shadowball with the seniors by like Saturday!”
RIGHT AFTER LEON STEPPED FOOT in the front door of his house, there was a whoosh of air just in front of him in the hall and Aidan appeared out of nowhere.
Leon barely raised an eyebrow. He scowled a little, but then continued past Aidan to the kitchen. Over his shoulder he said, “You should apparate to your room. What if someone was there?”
His brother laughed and grabbed at him, trying to put him in a half nelson.
“You’re just jealous, you little lantern.”
“I’m not just a lantern, dork.” Leon squirmed away into the kitchen. He heard Aidan call after him.
“Oh, that’s right. I forgot. You’re a dark lantern. You know how to not shine a light.” Aidan laughed and ran up the stairs.
Leon found Mother in the kitchen. She was not happy that Leon didn’t respond to her message and she said no to the sleepover, but finally gave in for tomorrow. Leon sent Randall a message as Father, Aidan, and Kalina came to sit down at the table.
At dinner, Father complained about a law that congress had passed that day in between bites of his food and reading on his phone. It was something about blah blah taxes are going to go up blah blah and then he mentioned the Firebolts.
Leon’s ears perked up. “The Firebolts?” he asked, still playing on his phone.
Aidan joined in, “The best shadowball team in the country?”
“Duh. They invented the sport.”
“Because Kaz Warwick invented our superpowers,” mocked Kali, their younger sister. She wiggled her head and spoke in a deep voice to imitate her older brothers.
Leon and Aidan shot her a look. She was more of mix of Mother and Father than either Aidan or Leon. She had long, straight, red hair that reached half way down her back and had about as many freckles as Aidan, but on her cheeks.
She continued in her mocking tone, “The Firebolts are known for being masters of their superpowers. Most of them even have more than one power, which is completely unnatural and means that they are freaks of nature.”
“Hey,” said Leon.
“And little girls who don’t have any powers are the biggest freaks of nature,” said Aidan.
Kali continued with her mocking voice. “Little girls who are about to develop their powers are reportedly the coolest people on the planet, because they could have any of the nine superpowers.”
Everyone burst out laughing. Mother and Father reassured Kali that she was going to love her power and that she would start noticing it soon. Aidan took the opportunity to jab Leon one more time about his lame power. Leon scowled and went back to eating.
Kali was the only one who didn’t have a phone yet, so while everyone else stared at their phone, she leaned over Leon’s shoulder to watch him play.
After minutes of silence, Father continued ranting about the new law.
“I mean, what are they thinking with this law? How could they possibly think this is a good idea? Why would people want to pay more in taxes? I’ll tell you what it is.”
Mother finished his thought before he could. She took on her own mocking voice just like Kali had. “Kaz Warwick has congress and the whole government in his pocket. They’re his puppets.”
“Exactly,” said Father.
“Dad, how do you know it’s him? There’s no proof,” Aidan said.
“Not yet, but mark my word. It’s true. This law only benefits the Firebolts and enslaves us. I wish I had him here right now. I’d give him a piece of my mind.”
“Anyway, honey, Aidan has some exciting news he can’t wait to tell us,” Mother said. She put down her phone and touched Father’s arm so that he would do the same.
Kali asked for the salad and Mother lifted the salad with her thoughts and floated it over to Kali.
Aidan beamed with pride. “I was promoted to senior mail room clerk today.”
“So quickly? That’s great. Good job, son. How’d you get it?”
“Well you know how I said that they are trying to phase out the speeders from the mail room?”
Leon rolled his eyes. “Because they always make a mess.”
Kali giggled with Leon, but Aidan continued unfazed.
“Well, they’ve only got a few dumbledores there and since I’ve been practicing so hard lately, I’m the fastest and most accurate. So naturally, they promoted me.”
“Hard work pays off,” said Father, picking up his phone.
“And of course it comes with a pay raise I might add,” said Aidan, puffing out his chest and looking at Leon.
“Practicing? You’ve been playing games on your phone,” said Leon.
“I happen to be on the leaderboards, Leon. The state leaderboards. And what does that mean? Oh right, it means I’m basking in the purple rays like they’re going out of style. No lame green over here.”
“I don’t care about your purple rays.” Leon wanted to say something about learning to use dark energy. That would beat anything Aidan could say about being on the leaderboards or having a better power. But Leon didn’t want anyone to know yet, especially Father.
THE NEXT DAY AT THE sleepover, Leon and Randall couldn’t wait for the sun to set so they could start practicing. They were both head down, playing games on their phones. Whenever either would win and bright blue light would shine from their phone, they would take a deep breath as if to breath in the light.
There was a knock at the door. A stiff wind rushed by Leon as Mrs. Crespo ran to the door. Her color was violet and that meant she was a speeder. Their house was always full of things strewn on the floor from her wake.
“Hi, Micaela. Come in,” she said.
From where Leon sat at the dining room table he could see his short, pudgy friend from school, Micaela, walk in the front door.
Leon looked up long enough to ask, “Hey, Micaela. What are you doing here?” She wore a purple flower print dress, which was typical for her, and carried a large purse and a small book. He looked back down at the game he was playing.
Mrs. Crespo rushed passed them and returned in an instant with her pocketbook.
“I’m giving Randall’s mom a book that I think she’ll like,” said Micaela, somewhat sheepishly.
Mrs. Crespo asked how much the book cost and began looking through her pocketbook for money, but Micaela told her that it was a gift. Mrs. Crespo thanked her graciously and hurried away, nearly knocking Micaela’s purse off her wrist.
“You know, Micaela, there’s something different about you?”
“Different?” she asked Leon. “You mean since school ended?”
“No, just always. You’re different than most people. It’s hard to put my finger on it.”
Leon won another round and stared into the blue light emanating from his phone. He looked up at Micaela to study her. Maybe she smiled more than most people. Maybe she was happier than most people. Leon couldn’t figure out what seemed different about her.
Randall chimed in, “She never uses her phone.”
“Oh yeah,” said Leon. He looked back down at his phone to play another round. “That’s right. I don’t ever see you on your phone. I’ve never seen you use your power either.”
“Or even talk about it,” said Randall. “I don’t even know what color she is.”
“Yeah, Micaela. What color are you?”
Micaela sighed. “I’ve told you this before, Leon. My family and I are different. We don’t have powers, really.”
“I’ve heard of people who can’t have powers,” said Randall, still playing on his phone. “Genetic defects or something.”
“Hey! It’s not that.”
“Randall, that wasn’t very nice,” said Mrs. Crespo from the living room. She was sitting on the couch not far from them, typing on her phone. Another button press and indigo flickered from the screen.
“What? It’s true. How else could you not get powers? I mean everyone has powers, even if it’s just green.”
“Hey,” said Leon without looking up.
“I’m sorry for Randall, Micaela,” said Mrs. Crespo.
“It’s okay. You don’t have to apologize, Mrs. Crespo. It’s getting late, I think I’m going to go.”
“Wait, Micaela, before you go,” whispered Leon. “Have you ever heard of dark energy?”
Micaela didn’t say anything. Leon looked up to meet her scared eyes.
“Yes,” she swallowed hard. “Why?”
“Once it gets a little darker, Randall and I are going to learn to use dark energy so I learn how to mindbend or apparate,” Leon whispered. “Do you want to watch? Maybe you could—”
“Why would I want to watch you do that? I don’t have powers, remember?” Micaela was suddenly very disturbed and it showed heavily in her voice.
“Uhhh … I don’t know … I just thought maybe you could try to get a power, too. You know?” said Leon.
“What, I’m not cool unless I have a power, so you wanted me to play around with the Dark Void to get one? I can’t believe you,” Micaela said indignantly.
“What? What did I say? I just wanted to—” started Leon. His face flushed bright red and he looked to Randall for support. Randall was still staring at his phone.
“I thought you were better than that, Leon. Good-bye.”
Micaela spun around and stormed towards the door. When she got to the door, she turned around to thank Mrs. Crespo and to say goodbye, then glanced at Leon before rushing out the door.
Leon didn’t go back to the game on his phone. Did I miss something? What did I say? He stared at the door with eyebrows furled and a sick feeling in his heart.
“Aren’t you going to go after her, Leon?” asked Mrs. Crespo.
“Not when she’s mad like that. What did I do?”
Mrs. Crespo chuckled and looked back down at her phone with an amused look on her face.
“Yeah, what got into her?” asked Randall, staring at his phone.
Later that night when Mrs. Crespo had gone to bed, Randall and Leon headed upstairs to Randall’s room and began practicing. Up and around the narrow staircase and the first door on the right was Randall’s room. There were clothes on the floor and empty soda cans pushing out of the small closet. The bed in the middle took up most of the room, but he had a TV on the dresser on the left wall and a desk on the opposite wall.
Randall turned off the lights. Leon sat on the bed and began like always, relaxed, back straight, legs folded. He felt like he was trying to meditate. Instead, he was picturing his body as a magnet, reaching out to the dark energy and pulling into his him. He soaked it in through his skin and deep into his soul.
Something within him started to feel cold and empty. It was a hopeless, scary feeling, but Leon knew that if he could just push past it, then afterwards would come power. It almost felt like his body was being taken over by some unseen force, some dark being that was more than willing to have him.
He continued letting the dark seep in. He wanted more and more. Finally that feeling of power sparked in his mind. Next it flowed to his muscles and then finally into his hands and fingers. Though all the exposure to blue light from his phone hadn’t made him feel any different before now, he could suddenly feel a reserve of blue light energy within him along side his small reserve of green light. It was huge.
In his mind, Leon reached out to the desk chair near him with the blue light and pictured it floating off the ground. He felt resistance from the chair just like lifting it with his arm would cause resistance. He lifted harder.
Leon opened his eyes to see if the chair was off the floor. His eyes were now adjusted to the darkness in the room, but he still could only see the shape of things. To his surprise, everything around him seemed to be floating. The desk, the chair, soda cans, and small things that he couldn’t identify were all hanging in the air.
I did it! I’m mindbending! I’m going to play shadowball with the cool kids!
Suddenly everything dropped out of the air. Leon flinched and scorching green light burst out of his hands until the reserve of green energy within him was depleted.
“What was that?” Randall asked. His mother must have had the same question because she yelled from her room. Randall yelled back that everything was fine.
“I know! I did it.” Leon bounded to his feet and was almost hopping with excitement.
“You’ve done that before?”
“No, that’s the first time. Did you see it? Everything was off the ground. Were you floating too?”
“So you don’t know how you made the green bicycle?”
“The what? Green bicycle? I made everything float, dude. Can you believe that?”
“There was a bike. You made a green bike. When everything fell, there was this green bike that came out of you and it broke the lamp.”
“I think that broke when it fell.”
“Come on, it was only like an inch off the ground. I don’t think that broke it. I won’t tell my mom. Come on, how did you make the bike?”
Leon sighed and sat down. “It’s always something different.”
“So you’ve made green things before?”
“Yeah, every time I try this, there is some green thing. Sometimes it’s a chair or a monkey or something.”
“I’ve never heard of a lantern doing that before. And it broke the lamp.”
“I’m sorry, geez. Lay off.”
“No, I mean it wasn’t just light. It was a thing. It touched something and broke it.”
“Yeah, but man I did it. Things were floating. I’m going to be a mindbender. And that’s just the start. Then I’ll fly. Anywhere I want to go. Oh, and I’ll teleport and never have to walk again. I’ll teleport upstairs, and then to school, and then to the shadowball field.”
“Okay, okay, my turn.”
Randall stood up. He walked over to the side of the bed near the desk and closed his eyes to concentrate. His face twisted as if in pain or fear for just a moment and then he stood up straighter and opened his eyes, determined.
He faced the TV from across the bed and strained with both hands until it floated a few feet into the air. He slowly spun it in place until it was back how it started. Randall was struggling and groaning now. He began to set it down slowly, but when it was several inches from the top of the dresser, his strength gave out and it fell, banging loudly on the wood. Leon cringed, thinking that the TV had broken. Randall slumped down wearily onto the bed, breathing heavily.
“Whoa! That was cool. It only took you like ten seconds to suck in the dark energy.”
“Yeah,” Randall said between breaths.
“Did it hurt?”
“No,” said Randall, confused.
“Oh, just your face. You looked like it hurt. Doesn’t it feel weird at first though.”
“Yeah, it’s not a good feeling, but I bet we’ll get used to it.”
“You’re right.” Trying to forget the image of Randall’s twisted face, Leon changed the subject. “Dude, didn’t it feel like dark energy multiplied your blue light?”
“Yeah, let’s charge up again.”
“Yeah,” said Leon with a smile.
“Choose green this time. I want you to try something.”
Lantern Like a Boss
SHADOWBALL WAS THE COOL THING to do for teens in the town of Bethel. The high school had a large stadium — the biggest in the area — where kids would play pickup games every night during the summer. But Saturday nights were the most crowded nights to play. Every kid in town came. The bottom level on the east side of the outdoor stadium was almost full.
Though almost a thousand had gathered, few watched. Their heads were bent over staring at the games and videos on their phones. The stands shone bright with the many colors of light that flickered from everyone’s phone. Clusters of blue and indigo and red were scattered around the stadium, and occasionally a cluster of mixed color could be seen. Leon noticed yet again that green light was nowhere to be seen.
Some of the younger kids were playing tag at the ends of the field. They flew and teleported to get away from their friends. Their game never lasted long before they would need to stop and play some more games on their phones to recharge.
The players on the field were in the middle of a game, so Leon and Randall sat with Micaela and Carter while they waited to get on a team.
Carter was indigo like Randall’s mother. He was thin and confident with black hair cut very short. He wore jeans and a button up, striped shirt signifying that he wasn’t going to play shadowball. It was normal for the 6th graders not to play. The kids in high school usually didn’t let anyone in middle school play, but Leon and Randall were determined to change that tonight.
Micaela was wearing jeans as well. Leon couldn’t remember seeing her in anything but a dress before this. He also had never gotten her to come see a shadowball game. He didn’t understand why she didn’t like it. Even if she didn’t have powers, it was still awesome to watch kids who did have cool powers play such a fun sport.
Micaela didn’t ask about the sleepover and Leon didn’t want to bring it up. She didn’t seem mad at him anymore, but he was a little on edge that she might bite his head off again. Who understands girls?
Leon looked up for a moment from his nervous tapping on the screen of his phone. Micaela didn’t have her phone out. She was watching the game. He looked around and noticed that she was about the only person watching the game.
The shadowball field was 150 yards of AstroTurf and in the middle of the field there was a raised platform half as long as the field on top of which there was a second field, supported by large pillars, called the upper deck.
When Kaz Warwick designed shadowball he knew that having players with superpowers would require a new dynamic to the game. Adding the upper deck to the game gave players real usefulness to being able to teleport and fly. It made the game harder to follow and more dynamic.
Shadowball was played with a soccer ball. The ball could be carried, thrown, or kicked. The goals were three small soccer goals in a triangle formation. Two were on the ground several feet apart and a third was a few feet above the goalie’s head in the center. Dumbledores and speeders were often goalies, but aeronauts were known to be successful as well.
Carter looked up from his phone.
“Randall, what you doing basking with blue light? You’re orange, dude. I keep telling you. A tiger don’t change his stripes, brother.”
“You’re wrong. I am blue now.”
Carter stared at him, incredulously. Leon looked up and smiled.
“You’re in on this too, Leon? Oh no. Nuh uh. Is that why you’re dressed to play? Are you going to go act a fool and ask them to let you play again? Don’t you remember that time you ate grass? Man, just accept it. They don’t want a green playing ‘cause you can’t do jack. That don’t mean nothing, though. You’re still a great guy, but you ain’t a shadowball player. Deal with it.”
“I’ve discovered something about being a lantern, and Randall and I have spent the last two days training for this moment. Tonight we are going to play shadowball with the seniors.”
“At least you’re still green. You two just gotta play it cool, man. Accept what you are.”
“What I am? No, Carter. I know I’m more than just a lantern. I have to be.”
Without looking up, Carter answered with a shrug.
The game on the field ended and Leon stood. “Let’s do this, Randall.”
“Uh, maybe we should wait until the next game?” asked Randall with sudden trembling.
Leon felt butterflies in his stomach. Am I ready for this? It’s too late now. “We have to do this now, Randall. We have to.”
They made their way towards the middle of the field where all the players were gathering to decide who would play next. The kids who had just played were bent over, breathing heavily.
As they approached, Leon noticed again how much bigger the other kids were. He looked like a hobbit among men. He swallowed hard and kept going. Randall wasn’t short like Leon, but the older kids still towered over him.
Leon steeled himself for the jeering and laughter that would surely face them. He had tried to play several times, so most of them already recognized him and might kick him out before he could say a word. Greens, browns, and oranges didn’t try to play with them and his unnatural persistence was sure to get made fun of.
Randall is blue now and whatever you call it that I can do with green energy is sure to get me on a team. I’ve got to try again. I’m more than just a normal, lame lantern. I am.
Tommy wasn’t assigning people to teams today. It was another senior that Leon had seen before. He was short for an older kid, but he was still a head taller than Randall and he had plenty of weight to throw around so no one seemed to make fun of him.
Leon knew what superpower this boy had immediately. The boy was stretching his torso up above the crowd so that he towered over everyone and could see all the potential players. He used pink light energy and people called them ‘fantastic plastics’ or just ‘plastics.’ He wasn’t able to turn into any shape he wanted to like heroes from the comic books, but he could stretch his limbs pretty far. His arms stretched and weaved through the crowd, tapping kids to assign them to a team.
“You’re on the triangle team. You’re on the circle team,” he commanded.
Leon felt an icy chill the moment the pink kid noticed them. “You again? You’re that lantern boy who tried to play before. Hey, Tommy, look. It’s the green kid. He wants another knuckle sandwich.”
The whole group of players parted like the Red Sea and Tommy and the pink boy stood in the middle staring at Leon.
“You don’t learn, flashlight. I said beat it.”
Tommy’s white A-shirt was almost transparent from sweat. He was the scariest kid there. He was huge and his muscles were bigger. And Leon knew that he was yellow, what people called a hulk. One punch from him would break bones. Leon always shuddered when he looked at Tommy’s eyes, so he tried to avoid them.
“My friend wants to play,” said Leon.
Suspicious, Tommy slowly folded his arms across his large chest, glaring at Randall. “What color is he?”
“I’m blue,” said Randall puffing out his chest. He looked frail compared to Tommy, but he had confidence.
“Well, you’re not scrawny like your friend,” said the plastic boy, turning to look for approval from Tommy.
“No, make him prove it. I don’t trust either of them.”
“No problem,” said Randall. He stepped forward and asked the crowd to give him some room. Someone put the ball on the ground in front of him and then everyone cleared a path to the goals. The lights from the upper deck shone brightly on Randall’s face. He was concentrating on the ball, but his fists curled tight showed Leon that he was nervous.
Randall slowly raised the ball into the air in front of him with his mind. It hovered there for a second before Randall stepped back, pulling the red and white ball toward him at incredible speed. Just before it hit his head, he made a forcefield surround his body that deflected the ball straight towards the left goal. Leon almost didn’t believe it, but the ball swiftly flew into the net at the back of the goal. Randall had done it, and everyone cheered.
What had surprised Leon the most was that he heard people from the stands cheering. They had put down their phones long enough to watch Randall and now they were all cheering for him.
Tommy slapped Randall on the back. “Impressive. How in the world did you use a force field too? I thought you were blue?”
Randall smiled broadly. He looked at Leon and then at Tommy. “I’m … I’m different.”
“This kid plays,” said the pink boy.
Everyone on the field cheered.
I can’t believe that worked. Randall is going to play. He’s playing shadowball with the seniors. Wait a second, I’m not playing. If they think Randall can do something cool, wait until they see what I can do.
“I can do that too,” Leon blurted out. That wasn’t what he meant to say.
Everyone turned to Leon. Tommy laughed.
“Yeah right,” the stretchy kid said. “Prove it. Give him a ball.”
Leon found himself in the same spot as Randall. He stared at the triangle formation of goals several yards in front of him. He felt his heartbeat climbing. The crowd of kids looked at him. Someone laughed at Leon’s hesitation.
Leon could feel a reserve of blue energy within him. It was very small, left over from training earlier the day before. He had spent most of his time training with green energy for the last two days and had ignored blue energy. But he had noticed that even without sucking in dark energy, his reserve of blue was still usable. Or maybe he always had some dark energy in him now. He wasn’t sure which. But he did know that his blue energy wasn’t enough to even throw the ball.
“Come on, flashlight. We don’t have all night,” shouted Tommy.
Leon closed his eyes, tapped his blue energy, and tried to lift the ball off the ground. He felt the usual resistance from picking up an object and then it slowly, shakily lifted into the air.
Leon could see Tommy’s eyes widen in surprise. A lantern couldn’t mindbend, he was probably thinking. Leon smiled, but continued to concentrate on levitating the ball.
Using everything left from his blue reserve he flung it into the air towards the goal. His gaze followed its trajectory through the air. He immediately could tell it wouldn’t make a goal, but it would be close enough to impress the crowd.
To his horror, Leon realized that the ball hadn’t flown through the air. It flopped onto the ground rolling only a few feet before stopping. Leon closed his eyes in defeat. He heard the roar of laughter from the crowd and probably even from the stands. He had failed.
“You lose again, flashlight,” Tommy bellowed. “Come back and play when you’re not a loser anymore. Actually, just don’t come back.”
Leon looked at Randall. He made eye contact with him for just a split second before Randall looked at the ground and shuffled his feet. Leon’s heart sank. Even Randall wouldn’t look at him, wouldn’t stand up for him. He wanted to go cry. He wanted to curl up under a rock and be crushed and forgotten forever. This was the end of his life. He would never live this down.
Tommy has no idea what I’m capable of. He doesn’t know what I can do. I’m better than he is. No lantern in history can do what I can do.
Leon made a ball appear in hand. It looked just like the shadowball ball, except that Leon could see through it and it was glowing green. It was still incredible to him that he could do this. It felt like a real ball in his hands. He squeezed it hard as if popping it would diffuse his frustration. A tear rolled down his cheek and landed on the ball.
Leon chucked the ball at the goal as hard as he could. If he couldn’t throw a ball with his mind, a glowing ball that he made appear out of nowhere would surely get their attention. Maybe they would even let him play.
His aim was way off and the ball flew into the group of players. Leon’s fear multiplied when he saw it was headed right for Tommy. He was in the middle of a loud laugh and it was about to hit him square between the eyes.
For a very brief moment Leon felt awesome with himself. I just accidentally stood up to a bully.
After that brief moment, he felt sick to his stomach. I just accidentally stood up to bully who can crush me like a cockroach!Tommy was going to be as mad as a raging bull.
The ball struck Tommy and almost made him fall over from the surprise. As soon as it hit him, the ball dissipated into tiny little specks of green light which faded away. By the time Tommy recovered, the players were silent and so were the people in the stands. Leon didn’t hear anyone breathe, not even himself.
Just as Leon had predicted, the hulk was mad and he charged like a bull. Running would have only gotten Leon impaled or thrown like a rag doll. He didn’t have time to get away. If only he had spent time learning to teleport. That would have been useful.
He felt his reserve of green energy and there was plenty. Maybe he could come up with something to save his bacon. He didn’t have much time to come with an elaborate idea. He just did the first thing that came to mind.
Just as the angry bull was about to hit its mark, Leon stepped to the side and made a glowing, green tripwire at Tommy’s feet. Just as Leon had hoped, Tommy fell flat on his face, grunting and snorting.
“You’re going to pay for this, flashlight.”
For the first time, Leon felt in control. I am powerful. I’m practically invincible. Whatever I can imagine, I can create with these green powers. Not even a hulk like Tommy can stop me. Why, I could be more powerful than Kaz Warwick himself!
Before Tommy could stand up again, Leon made a net around him that was staked to the ground. Tommy yelled in confusion and the crowd shouted in awe. Tommy looked like a hunted animal, striving and writhing in his net. Leon turned to the crowd and raised his arms in triumph and there were cheers. People cheered for him. Phones all over were pointed at him. Flashes went off and surely others were recording him, posting his triumph where everyone online could see him.
But his glorious triumph nearly crumbled when he turned around just in time to see Tommy angrily breaking through the net. Fairly unconcerned, Leon created a large brick wall between himself and Tommy.
Tommy rammed the wall with his shoulder and it sent green splinters flying. Leon slid backward in the grass. His eyes widened and the beginnings of fear crept into his heart. He strengthened the green wall with his mind, but noticed another horrifying fact. His reserve of green energy was almost gone.
Tommy punched his way through the wall and the whole thing dissipated into thin air. The crowd was wowed, but Leon was panicking. He made an arm shield appear on his left arm, but it was flickering. His green energy was running out quickly.
He turned to run, but Tommy had already caught him by the wrist. He wriggled, but Tommy’s grip only tightened. Leon met eyes with Randall. He begged and pleaded for help with his eyes, but just as he was about to ask vocally, he was shoved to the ground.
He stared up at Tommy and the fist that was about to add even more red spots to his face, but to his surprise, an orange force shield sprang up around him and Tommy’s knuckles bounced off. He hammered on it again and again, but he couldn’t break through.
Leon looked over to Randall, but he didn’t look like he was straining to keep the force shield up. No, it couldn’t be his force shield. Who was protecting Leon?
When Tommy paused to rub his knuckles, the force shield dropped and there was a whoosh of air as a dumbledore apparated just beside Leon. He or she grabbed Leon and they both teleported away, apparating just beside the bleachers where Leon could see Tommy’s look of surprise and hear his beastly grunt.
Leon looked at the one who had saved him. It was Aidan! And Father stood next to him. Before Leon had time to think, Father ordered Aidan to take them home and they teleported with a triumphant whoosh. The last thing Leon saw was the hatred in Randall’s eyes.
MOTHER NOTICED SOMETHING HAD HAPPENED as soon as she saw Leon, Aidan, and Father apparate in the living room. She put down the rag she was cleaning the kitchen with, and rushed over to Leon.
“Are you okay? Where are you hurt?”
Surprisingly, Leon didn’t feel hurt anywhere. He was exhausted and ashamed and embarrassed, but not hurt. Mother asked him several times to make sure he was really okay. She felt his forehead and shook his shoulders and arms to make sure.
Kali came running down the stairs and gave Leon a hug. He wanted to push her away. “It’s not that big of a deal. I’m fine. Geez, everyone calm down.”
“Not that big of a deal!” Mother scoffed.
“I was watching you try to get on a team, again. And when Tommy was really going to give it to you, I teleported home to get Father. I guess I could have just teleported you out of there. Why didn’t I think of that sooner?” Aidan trailed off, muttering to himself.
“It would have saved me the embarrassment of having Dad save me from a bully,” Leon chided.
“He can take you back there if you want to keep fighting him,” said Father. Mother slapped him on the shoulder. “You were brave to stand up to him, but we don’t want you in the hospital. You were in over your head going up against a hulk.”
Leon knew it was true, but he didn’t want to admit it to Father or Mother.
“Well, I’m just glad you’re okay. You got us all scared. Just sit down on the couch.”
He wanted to just run to his room, crawl under his covers and hide from the world. He had been so close to showing everyone that he belonged on a team with the seniors, but then he ruined it by accidentally throwing that ball into Tommy’s face. If only I had missed Tommy. Then people would still be cheering for me, instead of laughing at me. I’d be playing with Randall.
Randall. That traitor. He didn’t stick up for me. He’s playing with them right now and I’m here feeling like an loser.
Mother took off his shoes and propped his feet up on the foot rest. He wanted to just go hide, not be fawned over. He was fine. Kali was nervously playing with her hair. Something about this really upset her. She looked a lot taller all of a sudden, Leon noticed.
“Look!” said Aidan. “Everybody look at Kali. She’s floating.”
Kali looked around, more flabbergasted than happy. She immediately dropped to the floor. Father rushed over to hug her.
“I’m finally showing my powers! I knew it would be soon.”
“You’re an aeronaut, darling. Oh, you’re red. That’s so exciting,” said Father, beaming with pride.
While Mother hugged her, Leon watched Aidan’s reaction. He knew that Mother and Father would be pleased with her no matter what color she turned out to be, but Leon really wanted to know what Aidan thought. He would either be jealous that she could travel faster than him, or be excited that her power complimented his.
He was jealous.
He appeared happy, but Leon could tell. Everyone knew that Father had always wanted to be an aeronaut, and if Aidan couldn’t fulfill Father’s dreams, he didn’t want anyone too. It was written all over his face, but Mother and Father were too excited to see it.
Leon smiled. It was nice to have something on Aidan for once. He could use that the next time Aidan threatened to tell on him or tried to make him do Aidan’s chores.
“We’re going to have to get a phone for you now that you’re all grown up,” Father said.
“Oooo can we go tomorrow? I already know which one I want. All my friends have it. It’s the best phone on the planet. Can we? Can we?”
Father laughed and promised that they would buy one soon. Kali jumped up and down.
“I’m going to have a better phone than you and you,” she taunted, pointing at Leon and Aidan.
Aidan laughed. “It’s the color that makes you cool, not the phone, right Leon?” Aidan slapped Leon’s foot and Leon jerked both feet back onto the floor away from him.
“You saw what I can do today, Aidan. You’d better watch out.”
“Yeah, I saw you throw that ball like a foot. I’m not scared.”
Leon made a face before Mother told them both to stop.
That night, Leon was lying in bed playing a tower defense game on his phone.
Aidan: Hey! I saw you mindbend that ball. How did you do that? And what about that green glowy stuff?
He was still in the middle of the level and ignored Aidan’s message until he finished.
Leon: I told you I was going to learn all the superpowers.
Aidan: Are you using dark energy?
Leon: You’re not too happy about Kali’s power I see.
Aidan: Don’t change the subject. And you’re wrong. I’m happy for her.
Leon: No you’re not. You wish you were red instead of her.
Aidan: No I don’t. Lay off.
He smiled. He could picture Aidan’s face with a smile even though his message sounded mad.
Leon: You’re jealous. You want to fly. Is it because Dad always wanted to fly?
Aidan: Dad wanted to fly?
Leon: Don’t play dumb, Aidan. Come on. It’s obvious. What’s your deal?
Aidan: At least you’re not red.
Leon: What do you mean by that?
Aidan: You saw how proud he was of you. You stood up to a bully. That takes guts.
Leon: Lot of good it did me. Even with my new powers, I would’ve gotten killed.
Aidan: How’d you do that green glowy stuff?
Leon: Wait, are you jealous of me, now?
Aidan: You’re a lantern. Of course I’m not jealous of you. Your powers are lame. You don’t even have a power.
Leon: I do now.
Aidan: I’m going to start calling you a flashlight like Tommy does.
Leon: Jerk. Seriously, though. Why do you want to be red so bad?
Just then, his door burst open and Aidan bounded onto his bed. At first Leon was afraid that Aidan was going to put him in a half nelson, but Aidan just sat there with a dreamy look on his face. It almost looked liked he was about to cry or that he had been crying. Leon couldn’t decide which.
“Okay, you know how Dad always wanted to fly?”
“It was like his childhood dream,” said Leon.
“Right. So when I was little, I always thought that I would be red. Dad would be so proud of me, or something. This is stupid, but I always thought that I would take him flying and he would just be so happy to finally be able to fly around. I don’t know. That’s just what I used to think.”
“But you ended up being purple.”
“And we know how much Dad loves teleporting,” said Leon.
“Yeah, even tonight when we got home, he was like, ‘I still can’t get over that feeling. It makes me nauseous every time.’” Aidan snorted. He looked down at his phone and wiped the screen idly with his thumb.
“But come on, he’s proud of you being the executive loser in the mail room.”
Aidan smiled and looked up again. “I know,” he paused. “But it’s just not the same, you know?”
“Of course you know. You’re always moping around about your lame powers.”
Leon playfully shoved Aidan in the shoulder and Aidan got up to leave. Before he reached the door, he turned and with heavy mocking in his voice, he said, “I’m a flashlight and I just wish Daddy would love me.”
“Get out of here,” said Leon. He threw a pillow, but Aidan was already gone.
Aidan: I’m going to tell Mom and Dad that you’re using dark energy.
Aidan hadn’t even left a minute ago, but Leon started to sweat bullets. He was pretty sure Aidan was just playing still, but he could already be in Mother’s room telling them about his new powers.
Leon: You better not. I’ll tell them you hate Kali because she’s red and you’re going to make her life miserable now.
Aidan: Good. We’re even.
Leon’s heart still beat intensely. He listened for talking downstairs even though he wouldn’t have been able to hear anything from Mother’s room. His heart returned to normal after several minutes of hearing nothing. He was safe.
Fireballs at High Noon
LEON FLUNG A SMALL, PLASTIC ball into the air with only a thought. He made a baseball mitt appear on the other side of his backyard with his green energy. The ball crossed their white picket fence. The green glove flew backwards at Leon’s command to be in the right position to catch it. Leon missed, and the ball landed in their neighbor’s yard.
The glove scooped up the ball and threw it back towards Leon. It almost hit their tin shed on the way back, and Leon had to give it a tug towards him or else it wouldn’t have made it back to his hand. Leon felt proud of himself and turned to Kali with a smile. She wasn’t watching.
Kali was basking in red light from her phone. When the light shut off, Kali went back to typing at break-neck speed. An aeronaut flew by overhead and Leon noticed black storm clouds approaching. I don’t have much time to practice before that storm comes.
Instead of playing fun games on her phone, Kali did what most girls did. She chatted with friends and shared pictures and videos. Videos that she liked, she passed along to other friends. There was some sort of points system, that Leon hadn’t taken the time to figure out, that let her bask in light after posting so many pictures or passing along enough videos from other people.
It sounded boring to Leon, but Kali spent the whole day doing it until she had enough red energy built up to fly for a minute and then it was back to socializing.
Kali and Aidan had helped Kali the day before begin her flight training. Even Mother and Father had been in the backyard cheering her on. By the end of the day she had been exhausted, but she was able to fly for almost a minute straight. She really needs to work on her landing, though. She’ll have bruises for weeks at this rate.
Leon shook his head and went back to his game of catch with himself.
Before he could throw the ball, he noticed something about his reserves of energy. He hadn’t had to fill up on green or blue light the whole afternoon. He played games for most of the morning by escaping his chores, but even after playing with both powers for a few hours, he still could feel large reserves of energy.
It’s the most energy I’ve ever felt. And after the last two nights of training with dark energy, I think I feel this constant buzz of dark power. I think I was right that dark energy multiplies your energy. It’s like I have unlimited mindbending power! Just a few more nights of training and Tommy and Randall will be sorry they messed with me.
With his new understanding of his powers, he created a baseball bat and made the ball hover in front of him. Taking hold of the bat, he swung it. It crashed into the ball just as he released his mental grip on it.
The ball went flying over their fence. It was headed for at least three backyards away, when suddenly it stopped. Leon stared at it curiously. What’s happening? Have I lost control of my powers? Am I making it hover there without knowing that I’m doing it? Why isn’t it moving?
Leon noticed something move in the corner of his vision. He turned to see Randall walking around the side of his house. He scowled, though Randall didn’t see it because he was staring at the ball.
Leon looked back at the ball and saw it coming slowly back to him. It landed just inside his fence and rolled to his feet.
Leon looked back up at Randall. He shivered and felt goosebumps on his arm. There was something different about Randall. His clothes were normal: cargo shorts and a blue t-shirt. But he looked shadowed and gloomy despite the broad smile on his face.
“Hey Leon! My mom sent me to your house. She said I was being a pain today and she had to get ready for work. What are you up to?”
What does he want? Did he come here to gloat? Leon’s scowl deepened. “You’ve got a lot of nerve coming here,” he said.
Randall stopped mid-step. He looked confused. That’s a nice act, you’re putting on, Randall. But I can see right through it.
“What do you mean?” asked Randall.
“You know what I mean. How dare you come here after you betrayed me like that?”
“Betrayed you? You’re just jealous because I got to play and you didn’t.” Randall continued walking toward Leon. His smile grew larger while Leon’s temper flared within him. “Dude, it was so awesome. I had so much fun. I can’t wait until you can play, too.”
“So much fun laughing at me? Watching me almost get pulverized?” He is not my friend anymore. He is my enemy.
Leon unexpectedly felt dark energy surging into his muscles. It surprised him, but it fueled his anger.
Randall’s face grew solemn. “I’m really sorry about that. It was pretty lucky that your dad was there to save you. Tommy’s a really cool guy once you get to know him.”
“Oh, I got to know him. I got really acquainted with his fists!” Leon shouted.
A sharp gust of wind reminded Leon of the impending storm. The air grew chilly.
“What are you doing?” Randall squeaked, pointing timidly at Leon’s hands.
Leon looked down and saw green, translucent fireballs in either hand at his sides. He didn’t remember thinking about fire or consciously willing them to appear, but his anger felt like fire running through his veins. He looked up at Randall with a twisted smile.
“Don’t do it, Leon.” Randall took a defensive stance. His eyes were wide with fear.
Leon hurled the fireballs at Randall’s head with all his might, but Randall threw up a force shield that shattered them instantly into tiny green specs of light. Leon was suddenly shoved backward by an invisible force. He landed on the grass and continued to slide backward.
Kali screamed. “Are you two fighting for real? I’m going to tell Mom.” She floated upward in her sitting position until she was high enough for her feet to dangle below her and then made for the porch door.
Using his mindbending, Leon slid the glass porch door closed right in Kali’s face. He pulled on her body, hoping to not let her walk inside. She struggled and shouted, but Leon was able to keep her from moving forward.
While still concentrating on holding Kali in place, Leon stood and made a giant-sized fist appear in the air and swatted at Randall. He pushed it backward with his mind. Leon continued to add pressure, but Randall was keeping the fist at bay.
If only I could concentrate just on crushing Randall. He’d be so easy to beat.
With a sudden flare of strength, Randall sent the giant fist flying backward. Leon let it dissipate and focused on Kali. She had been inching closer to the door and now was almost grabbing the handle.
Leon lifted her up a few inches off the ground. She felt pretty heavy to his mindbending muscle, but with great effort he flung her into the air. She screamed something at him, but then flew away.
Leon didn’t have time to see where she was flying, because Randall had flung him back onto the ground. He checked his energy reserves and still felt a large well of power within him.
The wind was increasingly stronger. The storm clouds were almost overhead.
In his mind, he cried out to the dark energy, coaxing it, persuading it to come into him, to give him power. His anger increased as the dark energy flowed into him, strengthening his muscles and his power reserves.
“I can do the same thing, loser,” shouted Randall.
Leon stood. He saw that Randall’s face looked darker, shadowed. “All you know how to do is throw me backward, so bring it, coward.”
With a bo staff in hand, Leon charged at Randall. Why isn’t he pushing me back? Why is he just waiting? Is he really just going to use his shield? This is going to be easier than I thought.
When Leon was just a few feet from Randall, he swung the staff with both hands aiming for Randall’s shoulder and neck. The staff was inches from striking, when Randall disappeared. Leon almost lost his balance with the force of his swing and the sudden surprise.
“So, you can teleport now. You think you’re so cool?”
Randall laughed. He apparated on the deck and then again near the shed. He apparated just behind Leon and Leon felt a swift punch to the back of his head. He stumbled forward as Randall apparated once again. Leon’s head bumped right into Randall’s stomach and Randall shoved him backward.
I will not lose to him. He’s a traitor and a wuss. Looking up into Randall’s eyes, Leon flared dark energy and pushed Randall back with his mind. Randall countered by pushing on Leon. He slid back several feet in the grass.
Leon begged the dark energy to fill his body and he could feel it pouring in. His blue reserve of energy was limitless and growing. He used all of it that he could muster, pushing against Randall with his mind.
Randall must have been doing the same, for even though Leon could feel his power growing, he continued to slide backward in the grass. They pushed for what seemed like long minutes. Leon’s mind was growing tired and even his muscles ached from the strain.
At that moment, Leon heard something that threw a wrench in his concentration. It was the shrill voice of an angry mother, and she was calling Leon’s name.
With his loss of concentration, Randall’s mindbending force threw him backward through the air. He crashed against the metal shed. His body broke the door down with great force and he knew he would have a large bruise in the shape of corrugated tin on his back.
He laid there dazed for several moments. When he finally got up, Randall was nowhere to be seen, but Mother was standing just outside the glass porch door with her hands on her hips and an angry face that would scare away a demon.
“LEON JAMES TORVELL, WHAT DID you do to your sister? And why aren’t any of your chores done? And why did you break the shed?” Mother barraged Leon with questions as soon as the porch door was closed behind him.
“It’s Kali’s fault. And Randall made me break the shed,” said Leon. The surging dark energy from the fight was waning and embarrassment swept over him.
“Is not,” Kali yelled from the living room. Leon hadn’t realized she was listening. “He threw me into the air. He’s lucky I can fly.”
“Don’t exaggerate, Kali,” said Mother.
“I’m not, Mom! Something weird’s going on with him lately. He was mindbending me.”
Fear struck Leon’s heart. What have I done? I wasn’t thinking. Now she knows about my other powers. What is she going to tell Mom? Or worse, what is she going to tell Dad?
“Kali! Go to your room and let me talk to Leon.”
Mother turned back to Leon with a look that sent shivers down his spine. “What were you thinking doing that to Kali? You’re not a little kid. Now get your chores done, right now. Do you hear me?”
Leon nodded in fear.
“And just wait until your Father sees what you did to the shed.”
At dinner, Leon waited nervously for Mother to tell Father about the shed. Dinner was almost over and she hadn’t said a word, or made eye contact with Leon. He planned to dash downstairs to the basement the second he was excused from the table. Unfortunately, Kali had to open her big mouth.
“Mom, aren’t you forgetting to tell Dad something?”
Leon froze. His fork full of food was half-way to his mouth. Here it comes. How long am I going to be grounded for this time? How many months of allowance is it going to take to fix the shed door?
“I think it can wait until after dinner,” said Mother.
“Well I think we should talk about it now. Leon is doing weird things lately. Today he was mindbending me. And I saw a video of his fight at the shadowball field the other day. He’s was doing something weird that I’ve never seen before.”
“You saw a video of that?” Leon sputtered. Oh no, the videos. Everyone at school is probably laughing at me. ‘Look at the dorky red-head getting beat up by a senior.’
“Like thousands of people have seen it Leon. Now fess up,” said Kali.
Leon gave Kali an icy glare. How dare she do this in front of Dad. Just wait until dinner is over. Then she’s going to get it.
Kali made a face at Leon with her eyes bugged out and a triumphant smile.
“What’s all this about, Leon?” Father asked.
“I—” Leon started. He looked at Aidan who gave a sympathetic look, but then looked down at his food to avoid eye contact.
“Now that he has this weird green power, he thinks he’s something because now he’s fighting Randall and breaking the shed.”
“Why did you fight with Randall?” Mother asked.
“You broke the shed?” Father asked with a disappointed sigh.
In that moment of embarrassment and loss for words, Leon felt a coldness fill his body. It started as just coldness, but then turned into indignation and anger. He knew what it was. It was the dark energy and it was comforting. It made him want to just throw the table with his mind and watch the food splatter all over their faces. It made him want to just walk away from the table and go into the basement and keep training. It made him want to yell at Mother and Father so that they would leave him alone.
With anger in his voice, Leon explained that Randall had betrayed him, that Randall had left him to fend for himself against a hulk and then went off to play shadowball with that very same bully. They were no longer friends.
He then explained that he had discovered some new ability with his lantern powers. He left out using dark energy and only explained what he was capable of with green light.
Father seemed proud of Leon’s new abilities, but he still told him that he was going to fix the shed with his own money. Mother made him clean up the whole kitchen after dinner for what he did to Kali.
Leon used the time to brood over his loss to Randall. I can’t believe he still beat me. I’m stronger than him. I know I am. But he’s got three powers now. Three powers! By the next time I face him, I’m going to be able to teleport too.
And I didn’t even do anything to Kali. I just pushed her a little. She can fly. It’s not like she was going to get hurt.
And it’s not like the shed door costs that much. And I didn’t even break it. It was Randall. He should have to pay for it, not me.
I’ve got this amazing new power and Father still isn’t happy with me. Well, I’ll show him. I’ll show everyone. When I master all the powers, they’ll see how great I am. I’m not just a lantern anymore. I’m the most amazing lantern there ever was, plus I’m practically as good as Kaz Warwick. Pretty soon I’m going to have all the powers and then people will see.
Yeah, then I’ll take down Randall and Tommy at the same time and that fat plastic kid too. When people see a video of that online then everyone will want to know me. I’ll be able to play shadowball with the Firebolts themselves. Just you wait!
Ten to One
LEON SPENT THE NEXT WEEK training. He had a score to settle and his enemy was stronger than he was. His enemy would also be training hard, so he had to train even harder. Almost every spare minute was spent either basking in light energy, building a tolerance to more dark energy, or practicing with his powers.
Teleporting came surprisingly easy. He basked in purple light after just five games on his phone and he could already feel the reserve of purple energy within him. That night in his session with dark energy, he apparated from beside the dusty shelves on one side of the basement to the unused weight bench on the other side. It drained his whole reserve.
After just one more day of strengthening his teleporting muscle, he was able to feel the nearly unlimited reserve of purple energy whenever he also had dark energy, just like green and blue.
Next, he learned technique. He imagined scenarios in his head and made combinations of attacks and defenses using all three powers. He wasn’t sure what Randall would through at him, but he tried to remember every detail of their last fight.
Randall didn’t know how to use teleportation right. He was just showing off in our fight. He doesn’t know how to use it to his advantage. And while he’s going to be training to use it in shadowball, I’m learning to use it to fight him. Destroy him.
After a week of his most intense training ever, Leon felt he was ready to face Randall. He wasn’t allowed to go to the shadowball field without taking Kali with him. He resented it, of course, but he didn’t let it stop him.
“Have you been hiding from me lately?” Kali asked on their walk to the shadowball field.
“What? No,” said Leon. He wanted to just teleport to the stadium. He probably would have been able to get there from his house by apparating just three times he figured.
“Aidan and I think you’re hiding something. You’ve got weird powers and you don’t want us to know about them.”
“I know you can mindbend, Leon. And you can do that weird green thing where you create stuff. I saw it on the video.”
“Go talk to your friends online. I’m trying to get psyched up to play shadowball.”
Randall. I’m going to beat Randall. He’s going to run home to his mommy crying when I’m done with him. I can do this.
“I know you can do something weird, Leon. Why else would you be trying to play shadowball with the seniors again?”
“Look. I promise you there will be a great video that you’ll be able to share with all your friends and you’ll be able to bask in all the red light you want because of how many views you’re going to get. I’ll let you come down on the field with me and take the video if you’ll stop asking questions.”
Kali stopped walking. She eyed him thoughtfully. Leon could practically see the negotiator wheels turning in her head. Finally she smiled with a devilish grin.
“If you can give me a video that goes viral, I’ll stop asking questions.”
“Let’s go then.”
Leon had taken secret reconnaissance trips to the stadium during the week and Randall had been there every night he went. The part that irked Leon the most was that Tommy was not only letting Randall play, but he was acknowledging him like one of the group. Randall was one of the cool kids now. He was only twelve! How could a senior treat him like part of the group?
And even worse was that the crowd loved him. He was something of an underdog in their eyes and everyone rooted for him.
Leon and Kali slipped into the crowd high on the bleachers. He waited nervously for the next game to start, but then decided to wait it out another game.
“Are you scared?” Kali asked.
“No! I just want to watch Randall play more. I want to see how good he is.” I want to see how strong he is and how well he uses his powers. I want to let him get tired.
“He’s probably going to sit the next game out. He was just using his powers a lot in the game. He’ll need to bask for a while. Look, just about everyone who played is coming out,” said Kali.
“Not Randall. He’s special like me.”
“Okay. Whatever that’s supposed to mean,” said Kali.
An older boy next to them with a shaved head leaned over. “Hey, you’re that kid from the video, right? The one who can do the crazy green stuff?”
Leon was taken aback. He sounds like he thinks I’m cool, like I did something cool.
“Umm,” he stammered.
“Dude! Are you going to try again today? Tommy is so going to pummel you,” the boy laughed.
Leon felt his blood boil. He felt the anger from dark energy surging into him and he was about to lash out, but the boy had already turned away to talk to his friends. To Leon’s surprise, the insults hadn’t stopped.
“Hey guys, it’s that kid from the video!”
His group of friends turned to stare at Leon. Leon gave them an icy glare, but they were too busy pointing and snickering to each other.
“He’s going to try again to play today. Get your cameras ready!”
“Don’t you dare take a video of him,” Kali yelled. “He is going to play today, you jerks.”
His friends laughed and people all around them stared at Leon. Kali and Leon got up to walk away but first, Leon made a green, floating hand that grabbed the kid’s phone and flung it down the bleachers and onto he field. He didn’t look back as he walked down the bleachers.
When the crowd gathered in the middle of the field again to choose teams, Kali wished him a giddy “good luck,” and focused her phone’s camera on him.
He strolled confidently over to the group in the middle of the field. By the time he was under the upper deck, people saw him coming and moved aside for him. Some laughed, some stared in shock or maybe fear.
Randall was on the other side of the group. He was bent over, breathing heavily. Sweat covered his head and his shirt was wet. Since Randall was stocky, playing shadowball was quite a work-out for him. Leon smiled at this.
Tommy noticed Leon and grinned. “The little flashlight is back, guys. He wants another beating.”
“This time we won’t let daddy save him,” some kid called out.
Leon didn’t waver.
“I’m here for him.” Leon gestured at Randall.
Everyone got silent, and Randall glanced up.
“We’re not going to let you play,” said Randall casually before looking back down again.
How can he say that so casually? Everyone else can see I’m mad. I look mad, right? Everyone else saw just a taste of what I can do and they’re backing away from me. How can he just look away like that?
“I’m not here to play. I’m here for you, Randall.”
Now Randall stood up straight. He wore an incredulous smirk on his face. He looked around at all the people around him. He was trying to tell Leon that they would back him up, that he had too many friends to be messed with.
“By yourself?” Randall asked.
“I don’t need anyone else. Just you and me.”
“In front of everyone?”
“The lesson’s called ‘What dark energy can really do’ and it starts on chapter 1.”
Randall began laughing, but it was cut short when he saw Leon charge at him.
Leon brandished a bo staff. It was what he had practiced the most with. He liked its simplicity and its power.
Randall took a defensive stance.
The crowd of people cheered and shouted for a fight.
Leon lunged forward and swung.
Randall shielded himself.
The staff didn’t collide with the shield. Leon had teleported mid swing.
Because of Randall’s surprise, his shield disappeared. The crowd gasped.
Leon apparated just behind Randall and almost had the perfect opportunity. Spinning around during the teleport would have been near impossible, so Leon was facing the wrong way and by the time his swing had finished and he was able to turn around, Randall was already facing him.
At this point, Leon knew that Randall would have his force shield up by the time he swung, but he swung anyway. His perfect opening move that he had visualized in his mind over and over had been ruined.
The staff crashed against the shield and shattered. Green flakes of light scattered through the air and then disappeared. Leon looked up at Randall’s face and saw something very unexpected.
It was a blindingly bright light. It was coming from Randall’s hand, and it made it impossible to see anything. Leon quickly looked away, but the brightness had already left its mark. He couldn’t see anything.
He felt a fist collide with his face and then the hard ground slapped his back.
Randall stood over Leon triumphantly. “You know, your power was the easiest to learn. It’s so wimpy.”
Leon flared his nostrils. Can he make things out of green light, too?
“Wait, can you do what I do?” Leon stood up. He took a casual defensive stance not too close, but not too far away.
“You bet I can.”
“Come here and make me.”
Leon pushed Randall. He didn’t physically push him, just with his mind. He stretched out his arms and used them as a focal point to his mindbending power. He pushed them forward as he pushed harder on Randall, trying to throw him back.
At first, Randall slid backwards in the grass, but then he pushed back. Randall was stronger than Leon both physically and his mindbending. Leon was the one moving backward.
With teeth gritted, Randall said, “This again? I thought you would have learned your lesson from last time.”
Leon noticed the perfect opportunity. He saw that Randall was just about to burst forward with power. At the moment Randall did, Leon let go and let himself fly backward.
He flew toward groups of people just on the edge of the upper deck, but before impact he teleported, apparating just behind Randall and to one side. With his green energy, he materialized his staff and swung it backwards as hard as he could as he flew past Randall.
It connected with Randall’s back and made a sickening crack. Randall crumbled to the ground. Leon tumbled backward, but eventually landed safely on his feet and stared down at Randall.
There was silence.
Randall propped himself up with his arms. He didn’t look too well. His arms shook under his weight. His head wobbled awkwardly.
Leon stared at Randall’s new friends who were huddled motionless not far away. Look at them. That’s fear in their eyes. Help the loser or join the master? That’s what they’re asking themselves.
But when Randall got to his feet, he looked more determined than ever. In fact, he seemed to be saying that he was done playing. His face was hardened and his stare was confident. His stance was as solid as a Roman column. He flared his nostrils like a bull ready to charge. Leon’s courage quickly dissipated into thin air.
Leon made another bo staff appear in his hands and twirled it around his arms and body clumsily in a display of skill. He had to appear larger than life. He had to make it seem like he was awesome with this weapon and that he was prepared to cause pain.
Dark energy flooded into him at his command. There were bright flood lights shining all over the field and even under the upper deck it was very bright, but inside he felt darker than ever. Anger, rage, jealously, even hatred mingled within him. The dark energy gave strength to his bones and muscles. His senses were keen as a hawk. He was powerful.
Randall stared blankly until a smile cracked his lips. It was an unconcerned smile, a confident and treacherous smile.
Using mindbending, he lifted one pant leg just slightly. It wasn’t enough to see what was underneath, but just enough to see that there was something under his pants. He was concentrating for a moment before a rectangle with straps came out from under his pant leg.
It was an ankle weight. He lifted it into the air with his mind to display it to the audience before dropping it abruptly on the grass in front of him. He repeated this with the hidden weight on his other leg.
Leon’s mouth dropped open. This whole time he was wearing ankle weights? No wonder it’s such a workout for him to play shadowball.
Randall rushed at Leon using his moment of surprise to his advantage. In the seconds before Randall was within striking distance, Leon realized that he had plenty of ways to attack at his disposal, but no way to defend. He could make whatever weapon he could think of. He could use his mind to throw things. He could teleport behind an enemy to attack by surprise. But how could he defend himself?
Without thinking, he made a green, translucent force shield just in time to block Randall’s punch. He blocked a second attempt at his gut the same way.
He struck fiercely with his bo staff at Randall’s mid section, but before he could make contact, something crashed into the side of his head. He never saw it coming. It took him a second to realize that one of the ankle weights had just hit him on the side of the head.
The second ankle weight smashed into the other side of his head before he could react.
Randall’s fist followed the flying ankle weight and landed in Leon’s gut. He staggered back, coughing and angry.
Randall lunged forward again, but Leon dodged by teleporting. He apparated on the upper deck and after a second in which he assumed Randall was looking around for him, he yelled out an insult and waited. Randall apparated behind Leon. He wheeled around in time to dodge a fist and then teleported to the other side of the upper deck.
They stared at each other for several moments like a showdown in the wild West. The sun had gone down, but the bright stadium lights kept the dark night at bay. The crowd cheered loudly for Randall, but Leon paid no attention. He tried to anticipate Randall’s next move. He looks tired, weak. He’s got no steam left. Finishing him will be easy.
Leon made the first move. He teleported, apparating just to the side of Randall. Randall teleported away. Leon followed and so began a game of teleporting cat and mouse. Each time they teleported, Leon heard Randall’s breathing get more heavy. Each time he could see the sweat pouring down his face more. Each time Randall was slower.
Leon teleported next to Randall one final time and Randall couldn’t get away fast enough to avoid an elbow in the back. Randall cried out as his face hit the ground. He was coughing and trying to suck in air at the same time.
Leon stood triumphantly over him. Anger and dark energy surged through him. He made his staff appear in his hands, but before he could swing it, Randall teleported away.
Leon spun to see where Randall would apparate, but didn’t see Randall anywhere on the upper deck. He must have fled to the field below.
When he apparated under the upper deck, the older kids who were Randall’s new friends were gathered around him. He was wobbly and tired, but his friends were angry.
What? Are they going to fight me? How dare he let his friends fight his battle. It’s like ten to one. Well dark energy, let’s see what we’ve got.
Leon pushed everyone to the left of Randall with his mind in a powerful gust that knocked all but one to the ground. He repeated that on the right side of Randall and everyone, including Tommy dropped. Leon swung at Randall. Randall wearily put up a shield.
Though Leon’s bo bounced off, the shield shattered into orange specs of light. He’s too tired. One more strike and he’ll be down. Leon raised his bo and swung again.
Leon was stopped mid swing by a mindbender. He was about to push back with his mind, but he was surprised by a speeder running past who struck his head. Because of the kid’s incredible momentum, it sent him sprawling to the ground in pain.
Before he could get to his feet, he felt a painful kick to his side. He curled up instinctively as he coughed and sputtered. In a panic, he pushed hard with his mind where the foot had come from, but just as he did he got kicked from the other side.
He cried out in pain. He thought he heard some ribs crack and it sure felt like it. He writhed and cringed, gasping for air. Sharp pain shot all over his body. It flared like a hot iron and he shriveled into a ball.
It was then that he realized the boys were yelling at him. He didn’t understand what they were saying, but he knew it wasn’t words of encouragement.
Leon tried to get up, but his chest sparked pain so sharply that he couldn’t even catch his face from smacking against the ground. Blood drooled out of his mouth. Just then he felt hands grab him.
He tried to teleport. He tried to mindbend. He tried to call for the dark energy.
His mind was too focused on his pain. He couldn’t think. He could focus on anything but the searing pain in every breath.
He was lifted off the ground and for a moment he thought he was being cradled like someone was rescuing him, but he continued to go higher. He was high enough to be above someone’s head. He could see it, but it was like he was seeing it from outside his body.
Tommy was lifting him up above his head. Tommy threw him several yards down the field and Leon landed with a crunch. Leon’s muscles spasmed and his chest burned. The world seemed to spin around him before everything went dark.
WHEN LEON WOKE UP, HIS face was in a small pool of blood. Everything was quiet. He heard voices, but faintly. The lights were too bright. He had to close his eyes. He felt cold. And the more he came to, the more he felt his body. It hurt all over.
His head was pounding. Breathing was painful. His sore muscles spasmed and he cried out in pain.
He’d never felt this bad before. He was in so much pain that he wanted to cry, but that hurt too much.
He felt himself being picked up. Tommy was going to through him again. He tried to flail, but stopped immediately because of the stabbing pains it sent all over his body. This time he was being cradled. After a few moments he could tell he wasn’t in danger. It was Father.
He was put into a car in the back seat. It was more comfortable than the ground, but it smelled like puke. It was dark and Leon could finally open his eyes. Someone sat on either side of him. One was his sister. He could tell because he could finally recognize her voice. She kept saying something over and over.
Leon was also repeating something in a hoarse whisper. He pleaded, “Take me to a healer. Take me to a healer.”
When he woke up again, he was in a very bright room. It took several minutes to get used to the light. Each time he ventured out to open his eyes, he saw some people standing around him, but he had to close his eyes again. He knew who they were, and he didn’t particularly want to look at them. More accurately, he didn’t want them looking at him. He wanted to just pull the curtain around his bed and hide from the shame. He wanted to cry. The curtain couldn’t block his shame. Nothing could.
His body still ached, but the pain was less than when he was back at the field.
“Oh, he’s awake. He’s awake, guys.”
“Leon, I’m so so so sorry. I should have gotten Mom and Dad sooner. I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t crowd him too much, Kali.”
“Hey bro, how you feeling?”
“You all right?”
He had lots of questions and lots he wanted to say, but the only thing that came out was, “I dumbledore.”
His family laughed. It wasn’t that funny, but still they laughed.
Mother took first watch that night. She sat on the chair next to him and stretched her arm to hold his hand. Kali was slumped in the only other chair in the small room.
“Why didn’t you take me to a healer?”
“Oh honey, we are at the hospital. They did as much as they could for you. I’m so sorry. Do you need anything? Here’s your water.”
Leon nodded. He couldn’t remember what she said. He’d have to ask again sometime.
“How did you find me?”
“Kalina flew home and got us. We got there as quickly as we could, honey. Oh honey, what were you thinking? You can’t solve your problems by fighting.”
“I hate Randall.”
Mother just shook her head.
“How bad is it, Mom?”
“How bad is what?”
“Me. What did the healers say?”
“Oh, you’ll be fine. You’re going to be just fine.”
The next morning, Father came to take Mother home. He promised to be back soon. Kali stayed behind. Leon wanted to ask her about the fight, but she was staring at her phone, and he was tired. He slept again.
When he woke up again, Father was sitting in the chair where Mother had sat. They had brought him food and he began to eat it timidly. He wanted to scarf it down, but his chest was still very sore.
Bandages and gauze wrapped around his torso and his head. Tubes were connected to his arms and hands which were wrapped in their own set of gauze. Monitors beeped around him. The air was sterile and the lights had been dimmed.
“Does that taste good?” Father asked. “Do you have your appetite back?”
“Why didn’t you take me to a healer?”
His father smiled thoughtfully. “Where do you think you are, son? We’re at the hospital. They can’t magically make you all better. Besides, you’ll want to be able to show off your battle scars.”
“How bad is it, Dad?”
“You’re going to be fine. They fixed your broken ribs, but you’ll be sore for a while. You had a concussion and that’s going to make your head fuzzy for a while too.” He sighed heavily. “What were you thinking taking on those guys?”
“How could I know they were going to gang up on me? I didn’t think they even liked Randall, never mind fight for him.”
“Kali showed me the video, Leon,” said Father. “Aidan says you’re using dark energy and that’s how you can use more than one power. I don’t like it. And I don’t like what you’ve decided to do with these powers.”
“I can be more powerful than him. I just need to get him alone. Then I’ll show him. I am better.”
“Stop it, son,” Father burst out. It startled both Leon and Kali. “You almost got yourself killed once and you’re already planning to do it again? That’s stupid.”
Leon’s heart started beating fast. He felt dark energy flowing into him. It made him want to get up and show that he was strong. But he couldn’t stand up. It caused too much pain. “I’m better. I know I am. I can beat him, Dad.”
“It doesn’t matter, Leon. Do not go fight him again. You hear me?”
“No, Dad. I’m going to show him.”
Father was silent. He wasn’t hiding his scowl very well. I can’t believe I just said that to Dad. Kali looked up awkwardly from her phone. Leon looked over at her but she quickly broke eye contact.
“Then you’re not allowed to go to the stadium again. And this dark energy stuff has to stop.”
“You can’t do that, Dad.”
“Oh yes I can,” he boomed. “You’re forbidden from going near a shadowball field for life.”
Leon wanted to lash out. He wanted to punch Father. He wanted to scream at him. All of those things would have hurt too much. Instead, Leon pushed his lunch away in defiance, scowling.
Father snorted angrily and crashed his way out of the room.
Disciple of Light
AFTER ANOTHER NAP, LEON WOKE up to a surprising guest. Sitting where his parents had sat was Micaela. Her mom was standing next to her, looking around the room.
“Micaela?” Leon stuttered.
“Hey there. How are you feeling?”
“I’m, ya know, hanging in there. I can’t believe you’re here. Hi Mrs. Sol.”
“Hello, Leon. I hope you are recovering quickly.” She wore a white dress with flower print and held her wide brim hat in both hands in front of her. She was not tall or thin, but she stood elegantly. She wore an inviting, bright smile on her puffy cheeks.
“Yes, m’am. I’m getting better.”
“I heard what happened and I just wanted to stop by to say hi,” said Micaela.
“I didn’t think we were still friends after what I said at Randall’s house.”
“I came to the shadowball game with you, didn’t I?”
“I thought I guilted you into it,” said Leon. “I thought that I insulted you for not having any powers and all that.”
“Well, that’s actually why I came here.”
Micaela looked up nervously at her mother. Her mother nodded as if to give her courage.
Leon whispered, “Oh no. You’re not allowed to hang out anymore?”
Micaela chuckled nervously. “What? Oh, no, it’s not that, Leon. It’s just …”
“Oh, I gotcha,” said Leon with a knowing smile. “You were worried about me. Thanks, Micaela. I’ll get better. Don’t worry. You’ll see.”
Micaela looked at her mom with a hint of fear and a cry for help.
“I think you brought a book for him, didn’t you, dear?” Her mother calmly prompted.
“Yes, thank you. Leon, I wanted to give you this. It’s a book about my group … err … it’s about The Avalon. But a group that I belong to believes it.” She picked at her nails and then straightened her headband nervously.
“Believes it? Your group?” Leon asked. “Who doesn’t believe the stories about The Avalon?” He glanced over at Kali whose eyes darted away. She was grinning mischievously, but Leon didn’t understand why.
“We go to this group and we just made a building and it’s beautiful and we read this book and it really helps us. Maybe it will help you, too.” Her stubby hands were trembling. She straightened her headband again.
“I’m not sure if I understand, but thanks for the book. I love the stories about The Avalon.”
She laughed nervously again. “Yup. Everyone does. Well, I hope you get better, Leon. Bye.”
Mrs. Sol did not turn to go even as Micaela was reaching for the door. She smiled and stared right into Leon’s eyes. She leaned in ever so slightly and almost whispered, “I think she’s trying to say that this book might be what you were looking for when you were trying to learn about the Dark Void.”
Leon’s heart stopped. Micaela must have told her mother. She’s going to think I’m a bad influence on her daughter.
He tried to think of something polite to say, but nothing came to him. He just nodded. Mrs. Sol nodded slowly and then walked out of the room. Leon didn’t even say goodbye until they had already left.
He looked down at the book, but before he could open it another visitor slipped into the room. It was Mrs. Crespo. Her hair was unkempt and there were dark bags under her eyes. They looked worried and afraid.
Leon’s heart now raced. Anger, hatred, and disgust replaced the feelings that Mrs. Sol had left behind. Why did she come here? I don’t want to see her. What was she thinking?
“I’m sorry. I should have known you’d have other visitors. This is probably a bad time. You need to rest, I’m sure. I’m sorry for just coming without calling beforehand,” she said quickly. “I just wanted to apologize … for Randall. He’s terribly sorry for what he did. He didn’t mean to—”
“He didn’t mean to beat me up with his gang of lackeys?”
“He wasn’t thinking.”
“If he’s so sorry, why didn’t he come here himself to apologize?”
Mrs. Crespo was speechless.
“That’s what I thought. He’s not sorry. Give him a message for me. Tell him to watch his back, because I will get revenge. He’ll see.”
Nearly in tears, Mrs. Crespo turned and fled the room.
Leon looked over at Kali. She was shaking her head.
“Ya know, you’re a big jerk lately,” said Kali.
“Now that you’re feeling better, I’m almost glad you got beat up.”
“You’re not very nice either,” said Leon.
“Dad, Micaela’s mom, Randall’s mom. They all just wanted to be nice to you and you were mean to all of them.”
“They were not trying to be nice. I’m finally something better than a lantern and no one’s happy for me. They’re all just jealous. Don’t they see I’m in a hospital? Maybe they wanted Randall to kill me.”
Kali just shook her head.
Letting go of his anger for the moment, Leon looked down at the book that Micaela had given him.
Kali hopped out of her seat and plopped down on the chair next to Leon. She leaned over the hospital bed to get a good look at the book. Leon nudged her to the side because she was blocking his light.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Disciple of Light,” read Leon.
It was a small, dark book. It was a paperback book bordering on mass market quality. The front cover was a shade of brown that made it look like an ancient text. The title was written in beautiful, gold letters. Leon flipped it over carefully and saw a blank back except for two words at the bottom that read, “True Light”.
He flipped it back over and slowly opened the front cover. The pages were very thin and Leon was afraid of tearing them just by turning the pages. The first few pages were blank and then there was a hand-written note from Micaela in pen.
“What?” Leon asked annoyed.
“Nothing.” Kali just smiled and looked back at the note.
“Leon, I know this book comes from the True Light. We’ve learned so many things that have made us a happy family from this book. Sometimes I think I can even hear what The Avalon must have heard when he was searching for the Light, even though he didn’t know it.
“I hope you can find the same peace that we have found in this book. I hope you follow the True Light, too.”
“What does the True Light mean?” Kali asked.
“I don’t know.”
“I get first dibs,” Kali said, snatching the book from Leon and sitting down on her former chair to read it.
Leon made a move to lunge for the book, but he was stopped quickly by spikes of pain.
“Ouch. No fair. I’m hurt. Give that back.”
Kali didn’t look up from the pages.
“It was for me.”
Kali kept reading.
“I’ll be laying here for a while, bored.”
“I’ll give it to you tomorrow when I’m done.”
“Yeah right. You couldn’t read that in a month. Give it back.”
Kali didn’t say anything. She was already flipping to the second page.
“Fine. Read it and tell me what it says. I didn’t want to read it anyway,” he said.
Leon had a brilliant idea. With his mind, he slowly began adding pressure underneath the book. Sweat beaded on his forehead. He increased it every so slightly at first and then with one quick move, he yanked it off his sister’s lap.
“Hey,” she shouted.
It floated in the air towards Leon just outside of her reach. Kali floated upward, leaving her chair to reach for the book. Leon quickly brought it down to rest on his bed.
That’s what he tried to do, but instead he overshot the bed because Kali was flying towards it so fast and it landed under some medical equipment in the corner.
Leon was breathing heavily and his ribs hurt enough that he had to grit his teeth and close his eyes. “Look what you made me do,” he said between gritted teeth. “That was a new book. Now I’m too tired to get it.”
“You’re the one who took it out of my hand, silly.” Kali bent down to pick up the book and calmly floated back to her seat. She sat down and began reading silently.
Leon was especially jealous of her power to fly at this moment. He was trapped on a bed and here she was floating around. She floated everywhere these days. She was always floating a few inches off the ground everywhere she went as if constantly mocking Aidan. Leon normally thought it was hilarious, but right now he couldn’t stand it.
That night Kali went home. It was the first time she had left Leon’s hospital room that he knew of. Leon completely understood that she would want to sleep in her own bed and not in a hospital chair. He had been surprised at her devotion to staying with him, and he knew that she left only so he wouldn’t try to take the book from her in her sleep.
Normally Leon would have used Mother to force her to give him back the book, but he didn’t want to say anything about the book to Mother or Father and Kali used that to her advantage. She blackmailed him without a word, plain and simple.
She took it home and Leon knew he wouldn’t see it again until he got out of the hospital. Even then he would have to go digging through her room to find it.
The next day, however, she slipped it under his bed sheets when Mother and Father weren’t looking. Leon couldn’t draw attention to it, but it made him very happy to have it back.
Kali sat down and closed her eyes. She was asleep in no time. She must have stayed up all night reading it. Thanks, Kali. Leon smiled at her.
Father drove Mother home and then returned to sit in the chair next to him. Leon didn’t make it very far in the book by the time Father returned. He hid the book under his sheets and greeted Father nonchalantly.
“What are you so happy about? Is Kali drooling?”
“Yeah, you look happy. Maybe you’re just feeling better today?”
“That must be what it is.”
Father continued talking to Leon, but Leon wasn’t really part of the conversation. It looks like he cooled off from yesterday.
The little that Leon had read was about a boy not much older than he was who was developing his dark powers just like he was. Micaela was right: this was perfect for Leon. He couldn’t wait to see what the boy could do with dark energy.
Cade and Leon
THE BOY IN MICAELA’S BOOK was named Cade. He was a powerful master of dark energy at fourteen. He was sent with a small team to put down a small group of people who were trying to restore the Light to the world. Cade thought he was doing the world a favor, but when he fought The Avalon, hero of Light, he began hearing music.
It was a quiet tune which came from the wind or the sky, Cade didn’t know which. It confused him but he said it gave his heart peace. It made him feel comforted and watched over. The Avalon explained to him that it was the influence of Light that was speaking to his heart. It was trying to tell him to quit following the Dark Void, a destructive, evil force that consumes all that is good.
Leon slammed the book shut. Hmmpf. I’m not dumb, Micaela. I know the Dark Void is what you’re calling my dark energy. You think it’s evil and you don’t want me to pursue it. You want me to give up being what I am and just be a normal, lame lantern.
Well, unless this Light has some amazing powers that you’re not telling me about, there’s no way I’m letting go of my dark energy. It’s not bad. It’s more powerful than whatever you can do. And I doubt The Avalon was a follower of this Light. This is just a story. He was the most powerful hero ever. He must have had dark energy to do all the things he did. He couldn’t have beaten the Grimlock and 1,000 wolves without any powers.
Leon laid in his bed at home. He had mostly recovered, but he was still sore in his chest and back. He longed to go outside and use his powers or at least watch a shadowball game, but he was not allowed to, and wasn’t sure if he was quite up to it yet. He had tried mindbending little things around his room and it hurt. He was back to being weak again, but it was only temporary. In a few weeks when this whole thing blew over, he’d be as strong as ever. And Randall would pay dearly.
Kali: Are you done with that book yet?
Kali: Come on. Finish it quickly so you can ask Micaela for the next one!
Leon: The next one?
Kali: Yeah! At the end of the book it says End of Book I :-) I can’t wait
Leon: I can ask her for it
Kali: Thank you. Hurry up and finish it. Have you heard it yet?
Leon: Heard what?
Kali: The music. Don’t you hear it when you’re reading the book?
Leon: No. You hear music? Like what Cade was hearing?
Kali: Something like that. It’s cool. It must have been weird without anyone having any powers? Can you imagine no colors and no powers?
Leon: It’s weird. I know. Hey, does The Avalon end up having powers?
Kali: I’m not going to spoil it for you. Don’t forget to ask Micaela
Micaela couldn’t meet for another week. Besides doing chores and games on his phone, Leon didn’t have anything else to pass the time except read. The games on his phone seemed pointless lately. He knew he didn’t need to bask in colored light to get his powers back. He just needed to call the dark energy. He began realizing how much time he had put into those games back when he needed the light energy. Now that he didn’t need to play anymore, he had so much time that he didn’t know what to do with it.
What if everyone stopped playing games on their phones? What would we all do with all that time? It’s kind of a huge waste.
Cade was conflicted. He was a powerful warrior that relied on his dark powers to fight, but the song that he heard whenever he learned more about the Light made him feel so good inside that he almost wanted to leave dark energy behind.
Leon slammed the book closed. No, I’m not leaving my powers. They are too important. Following Light is even more lame than being a lantern.
It was then that Leon heard it. In his angry brooding, he heard a soft piano tune. He looked around confused, searching for the source. He held his phone up to his ear. It wasn’t playing any music. He held his ear to the wall that separated him from Kali’s room. It wasn’t coming from their, either.
He sat back on his bed and listened. It was beautiful music. It was relaxing, calming, soothing. His breathing slowed and his mind felt clear and open. Tears formed at his eyes. If this is how I could feel all the time, I think I could accept myself as a lantern. It doesn’t really matter what color I am.
That thought shook him out of the trance-like state he was in. The music in his ears stopped. His breathing quickened. He felt the dark energy flow back into him. My color does matter. Being a lantern isn’t cool and the only way to be cool is to use dark energy and have all the powers.
The White Castle
LEON AND KALI WERE USHERED into Micaela’s small house by Mrs. Sol and they were asked to sit on the flowered couch while she got Micaela. The house felt bright. There were smiling flowers placed in every room. It was immaculately clean despite the fact that Micaela was the youngest of her teenage siblings. No books or clothes were strewn anywhere. No food or empty plates were in sight.
Mrs. Sol returned and Micaela greeted them. Micaela looked even more formal than usual. Besides her flowered dress, she wore shiny earrings and a bracelet.
“I love your hair, Micaela. Oh, you’re so pretty. You look like you’re going to a ball. Those shoes are so cute,” said Kali.
Micaela blushed and thanked Kali.
Mrs. Sol took off her apron and sat on one of the leather chairs across from the couch where Leon and Kali sat. She too was dressed formally. Leon looked down at his sneakers and jeans and began feeling out of place. I didn’t realize this would be such a formal thing. Maybe Kali and I should have dressed up as well.
“I wanted my mom to be here to answer anything about the book that I couldn’t. She knows much more about it than I do.”
Mrs. Sol smiled, but said, “It’s not about what you know. It’s about what you do.”
Micaela asked, “Do you have any questions about the book?”
Kali blurted out, “Do you have the other books? What happens to The Avalon? Can we have them?”
“I’m glad you liked it, Kali,” Micaela grinned.
“I loved it. I can’t wait to read the rest of the story.”
“Did you like more than just the story?” Micaela probed.
“I didn’t,” Leon said. “I mean, I haven’t finished it yet, but I thought you said it was what I was looking for.”
“I think you don’t know what you are looking for,” said Mrs. Sol.
“I do, ma’am. I don’t want to be a lantern. I don’t want to be the weird green kid forever.”
Mrs. Sol smiled politely.
“My mom and I actually wanted to take you somewhere if that’s okay. It will help you understand more about what the book teaches.”
“Where they have the other books?” Kali asked.
Micaela giggled. “Yes, Kali. I’ll try to get you more of those books.” She turned to Leon. “How are you feeling, Leon? It’s not far. Do you think you will be okay?”
“I’ll be fine. What is it? Where are we going?”
Mrs. Sol asked, “Did you two know that the town Shiloh in the book is the same Shiloh that’s just twenty minutes from here?”
“I figured,” said Kali.
“I was wondering about that,” said Leon.
“It’s pretty cool, isn’t it?” asked Micaela. “We live so close to such a historic place. Let’s go.”
They piled into Kali’s van and in less than half an hour they arrived in Shiloh. It looked just like any other town. Leon was disappointed. He was hoping for this town to be something amazing. He did see more people walking around than usual. Most people would be flying or apparating around. I wonder if people here are like Micaela.
“Do you hear that, Leon?” Kali said radiating a large grin.
Micaela turned around in the front seat and smiled at Kali. “You hear it? I heard it too when I first came to Shiloh. This city looks like any other city, but it’s different. There’s something important happening here. You can hear it.”
“Just like in the book?”
“Yes, just like in the book,” said Mrs. Sol.
As they turned the next corner, Leon saw a building that was unlike any other building he had ever seen. It was so white that it was glowing. It looked like a castle made of the sun. It had large spires that shot high into the air.
Kali gasped. After several seconds she finally muttered, “It’s beautiful.”
The walls of the castle were white stone that had tiny sparkly specks. It appeared to be simply made a first glance, but as they got closer, Leon noticed it was laced with intricate details. Window frames, walls, and the giant front door were all decorated with detailed carvings.
The inside was white. White couches and chairs accented with gold thread sat along the white walls in the entrance. A woman in white clothes sat behind a white reception desk, smiling. People dressed in all white clothes guided visitors. Just about the only things that weren’t white were the beautiful color paintings that hung on the gigantic walls.
Someone played a tune on the piano nearby, though Leon couldn’t tell where the sound was coming from. It was familiar and soothing. That’s the same song I heard while reading the book! How is that possible? I have to find whoever is playing that piano.
Kali stared at the tall ceiling. “What is this place?”
Everyone turned to look at her. She hadn’t shouted it, but it didn’t feel right to talk loud here. Like in a museum, Leon felt that anything over a whisper would be disrespectful and would get the attention of everyone in the room.
Kali blushed and tried to hide behind Leon.
Micaela comforted her softly and gestured down a hallway to the right.
They turned right and got into an elevator. The same music continued playing and Leon nonchalantly tried to look for the speakers. Wherever the piano was in this castle, that song was being piped throughout the whole building, even the elevator.
The elevator was very white but it didn’t feel sterile like a hospital. Instead it was inviting and comfy. The carpet was plush and the walls were soft.
They walked down a corridor passing a few small rooms on either side. Leon couldn’t see what was inside and he didn’t want to look too nosy, so he followed closely behind Mrs. Sol and Micaela. The music was getting louder now.
They came to a pair of large, beautiful doors like the front doors. The handles were long golden rods. A large picture of a man, kneeling in a forest and shielding his eyes from a light above him, was carved into the wood.
Leon knew the music must be coming from inside this next room. It was louder than ever. How could I possibly be hearing the same song that I heard while reading that book? It’s impossible. It’s some trick of the mind or something. Am I being drugged by the air in here? And yet, it’s so comforting and peaceful. I’ve never felt anything like how I feel when I hear that song. What is this feeling? The answer must be behind this door.
Micaela grabbed the handle of one of the doors and Mrs. Sol the other. They easily swung the doors open to reveal to Kali and Leon what was on the other side. Leon was surprised and so very disappointed by what he saw.
The White Tree
THEY WERE STANDING IN A garden.
Kali gasped again. “This is so beautiful,” she whispered all too loudly and then blushed again.
Flowers of every color shined up at them. Well-trimmed bushes of vibrant green covered the ground. Butterflies fluttered around them. The ceiling was a large window that let the sun’s light flood into the room. There was a stone walkway leading to the center of the garden. And at the center of the garden was a white tree.
Leon had never seen anything like it. Its trunk was white and its leaves were even whiter. It’s fruit appeared to glow. Leon was baffled and he couldn’t take his eyes off of it.
They walked along the stone path, but Leon wasn’t watching where he was going and he stumbled and bumped into Micaela and Kali as the pathway curved around. His eyes were still fixed on the tree.
They stood under its protective branches, looking up at it. Leon breathed slowly and deeply, in awe of this magnificent tree. The song was loud in his ears as if it were coming from the tree itself. It was soft, but it pierced him to the very soul. It was playing its beautiful melody on his heart strings.
Kali moved to touch a leaf, but retracted her hand quickly and looked around blushing.
“No, it’s okay,” Micaela whispered. She caressed the leaves and ran her hand up a nearby branch.
“What is this? I’ve never seen anything like it in my whole life.”
“It is called the Tree of Life,” said Mrs. Sol.
“They never told us about this kind of tree in school,” Leon said.
Micaela covered her mouth and giggled quietly. “Only we know it exists.”
Mrs. Sol continued, “This tree is a representation of Christ.”
“What is Christ?” Kali asked.
“He is our Creator and our Savior. He created the Light — the True Light — and he has saved us from the Dark Void.”
Kali and Leon were silent for several moments.
“So you’re not human, Micaela? Is that why you don’t have powers?”
“What do you mean not human?”
“Well, you said this Christ created you. So what are you?”
Kali smiled. “No, silly. He created us. You and me. We are all his creations. He created our souls.”
Turning to her mom, Micaela softly asked, “Can I?” Mrs. Sol nodded, smiling.
Micaela smiled at Kali and slowly reached up towards one fruit that hung near her head. She grabbed it delicately like a piece of glass.
It popped off the branch with ease. She cuddled it near her chest like protecting a small child and then slowly handed it to Kali. Kali reached out and cupped her hands to receive it.
Micaela picked a fruit for Leon with the same delicacy as before. It felt as though it weighed nothing in his hands. It glowed from the inside out and it had a sweet smell like waking up on a spring morning after rain.
“Go ahead,” said Micaela, “taste it.”
Leon hesitated, the song beating loudly in his heart. He looked at Kali who had not yet taken a bite. They stared at each other silently, waiting for the other to take a bite first. This was not something you bit into. It was too perfect, too priceless. To ruin it with your teeth would be to destroy a masterpiece, a cherished memory, or a friendship.
Leon turned to Micaela, offering the fruit back to her slowly. “I can’t.”
Micaela only nodded her head encouragingly. Her smile was genuine and warm.
Leon retracted his arm and looked back at Kali. She nodded her head slowly and by silent agreement they both raised their hands to their mouths. Leon took a bite.
Nona and Papa
A WARM SENSATION WASHED DOWN Leon’s body. He felt like his heart was growing within him and the song pulsed therapeutically through his muscles and bones. His eyes were closed and he was enjoying these incredible sensations. His body felt light, like it was floating. He knew he couldn’t be floating because he felt grass under his suddenly bare feet, but his body felt like it was.
His missing shoes was the first clue that he wasn’t having a normal experience. He knew he hadn’t lost his shoes but there he was, standing in a grassy field barefoot.
He was warm all over, but not like being in a hot bath. It felt like he was being hugged. He felt like he was being cared for and loved by an unseen being, someone or something that could reach inside of him and make his soul feel good.
It was his Creator, the Savior that Micaela had mentioned. It was Christ that loved him. He didn’t know how he knew this, but he knew it. He felt it.
His jaw began to quiver and tears formed in his eyes. He tried hard to keep himself together. He didn’t want to cry in front of three girls, especially not Micaela. He would never live it down.
But the sensation was so wonderful. He felt loved so profoundly that he felt like he didn’t deserve such love. And yet he was grateful for it and it filled him with joy. He was loved by his Creator even though he didn’t deserve it.
He had never thought of these things before. He had a Creator and that being loved him more than he understood. Why does he love me? I’m a reject, a mistake. I’m a lantern. I’m a nobody. Who am I to be loved so well by such a being?
But that love was undeniable and tears forced their way down his cheeks.
He opened his eyes and suddenly he saw his grandparents. Nona and Papa he called them. The few memories of them that he had were marred by the last moment that he spent with them: their death.
In his mind’s eye, Leon could see perfectly the moment they died. It was like he was standing in his memory. He was young and sad, standing next to their sickbed in a small bedroom. They were both laying there together. Neither could take care of the other because both were sick and dying. At least they were together, I guess.
After he had said his final goodbye the tears came. He didn’t remember what Nona or Papa said to him. He just knew that it made him burst into tears and then he ran behind Father’s legs as everyone else said their parting words.
Moments after everyone had said goodbye, Nona and Papa hugged one last time. Still embracing, their bodies began to turn to mist. It was a dark, unruly mist that had looked like it was consuming their bodies. And before Leon knew it, their bodies were gone and the mist rose into the air and floated away on the wind.
Why did they float away? Why did they turn into mist? Where did they go? Why did they have to go?
This is only a memory, but it feels too real. Why am I remembering this now? I’ve just eaten a piece of fruit and felt this incredible love from my Creator and then I see Nona and Papa being taken from me? What does it mean?
Suddenly he was back on the grassy hill. He was standing there alone. A slow breeze blew the grass and his pant legs. There was a tree stump in front of him.
The wind changed and he saw a dark mist blowing towards him. It slowly gathered together above the tree stump. It became thick like a storm cloud and then it began to take a roughly human form.
As the wind blew more mist towards him, the cloud in front of him became more and more human like and then it split into two human forms.
Two human figures began walking towards him, still black as night and still just mist. Their nightgowns were blowing in the wind.
“Who are you? What do you want?” Leon called.
By the time they had touched down on the ground, their misty forms solidified and Leon recognized them as his Nona and Papa.
“You came back! You’re here!”
They were alive again standing in front of him. They reached their arms out to him with big smiles on their wrinkled faces. Leon stretched his arms out and hugged them. He squeezed them so tight. They were real. They squeezed back.
Tears streamed down his face. He tried to laugh, but it came out as a choked cry, but it didn’t matter because he was in their arms again.
“How did you come back? How are you here? Did the magical white tree bring you back to me?”
They didn’t say a word, but continued to shower him with hugs and kisses. The moment couldn’t last long enough. All too soon, they pulled away and began waving goodbye. Leon tried to hold on to them, but wherever he would grab them would turn to mist and his hand would pass right through.
The wind changed and began pushing them away from him. They floated up slowly back into the mist.
“Don’t go!” he screamed. “You can’t leave me again. I don’t know who I am or what I’m supposed to do. You can’t leave me.”
He cried even harder then. He couldn’t stop himself. He sniffled and wiped his eyes time after time, but it was no use. He couldn’t stop.
So he just cried.
Nona and Papa faded away.
LEON WAS SUDDENLY AWARE OF himself standing in the room next to Kali, Micaela, and Mrs. Sol. He blushed, not knowing if he had been moving and crying in real life, or just in his mind. He didn’t want to open his eyes. He knew they would be giggling and smiling at him. How much of that was in my mind? How much of that was real?
The piano song still quietly played in his ear. The longer he stood there with his eyes closed, the more embarrassed he felt. He decided that he couldn’t stand like that all day and ventured out with one eye slightly opened.
He didn’t see anything. He opened it a little more and only saw the white fruit in front of his face. It hadn’t moved since he took a bite. He opened both eyes and lowered the fruit. Micaela and Mrs. Sol were nowhere to be found and he was sitting on the grass next to the tree. He checked his shoes and they were still on his feet.
He looked to his side to see Kali. She too was sitting and she still had the fruit near her mouth. Her eyes were closed, but tears streamed down her face. She was smiling.
Just looking at her smile made Leon tear up again. He remembered everything he had seen and felt and his cheeks were instantly wet.
What is this fruit?
He brought it up close to his face to examine it where he had bitten it. He didn’t even remember what the fruit had tasted like, but his memory told him that it was delicious. He wanted to taste it again just so he could know what it tasted like, but even the thought of seeing Nona and Papa fade away again was emotionally draining.
And yet, he wanted to taste it again.
“Leon?” a small voice asked.
Leon looked over at Kali. Tears streamed down her face even still. She blinked several times. “Did you—” she began.
Leon nodded solemnly.
“Mom and Dad?”
“No,” Leon shook his head slowly. “You saw Mom and Dad?”
Kali nodded, but correcting herself, said, “More like felt them. It’s like they were there, but I know they weren’t there. Oh, Leon, it was beautiful. Have you ever felt anything like it in your life?”
“No,” he said slowly.
“Oh, I can almost still feel it. Christ has saved us from the Dark Void and I thank him for it.”
“Is that why I felt that way?”
“Excuse me. I don’t mean to interrupt,” an aged voice said slowly. An old man stood before them. His suit coat was white. His pants were white. His shirt, shoes, and tie were white. Even his hair was white.
Smiling he said, “I’m sorry, but Micaela and her mother wanted me to tell you that they were just taking a walk around and will be back soon.”
He nodded and then turned to go, but stopped mid spin and looked at Leon and then Kali. “Did you enjoy the fruit?”
Leon smiled and slowly nodded to thank the kindly, old man.
“What kind of fruit is it?” Kali asked with a child-like tone of wonder.
“We simply call it the Fruit of the Tree of Life. It can change your life.”
“Why does everyone here say the True Light?” Leon asked.
The old man stepped forward spryly. “Have you read Disciple of Light yet?”
“Yes. Just book one,” said Kali. “We can’t wait to read more.”
The man frowned slightly. “We’ll have to get you the rest. Come with me.”
He passed them, heading for the door that they had come in from. He began telling a story expecting them to be right behind him. Leon quickly got to his feet and hurried to catch up.
“In the days of The Avalon, there were no superpowers. No colored lights held any power. There were just Light and Dark in an eternal struggle. Dark or Darkness was sometimes called the the Dark Void. It is a formless being of malice and torment. Light is the power of the Creator and gives life to Mother Nature and to all living creatures. Two generations ago when the Void gave man these superpowers it was to enslave them, distract them, conquer them.”
The man talked like he was telling a story around a campfire. The more the man talked, the more questions Leon had, but he didn’t dare interrupt. The question that excited Leon most of all was to find out what powers he could have if he joined the True Light. If they follow the Creator, they must have some amazing powers.
“Now the word light is a term that is used to mean too many things. Too many things, indeed. We are followers of the original Light. The One True Light of Christ. And that is why we call ourselves the True Light. We don’t want to be mixed in with all the other colors of light that have twisted what Light really is.” He scoffed, “Giving people superpowers. What will the Void come up with next?”
Leon couldn’t hold back any longer. “What powers does the True Light have?”
“Powers?” The man stopped. He eyed Leon and Leon shrunk within himself. The man’s gaze was looking into his soul and he could feel it searching. What will he find? Surely he can feel dark energy within me. But wait, I don’t feel any dark energy. I have no reserves of light energy at all. That fruit completely drained me. I don’t feel any power inside of me.
“No powers. No magic. True Light reverses the effects of the Void on our bodies. When you die you won’t turn to mist. The only powers you need are courage, compassion, and a warm light for all mankind to follow.”
Leon felt betrayed, cheated. No powers? A warm light? I don’t want to be warm. My house is warm enough. I want to fly. I want to do awesome things. I want … something that will beat Randall. I don’t need this True Light baloney. I don’t need compassion. Randall won’t bow to compassion. But he will bow to me when my dark powers are stronger than his.
Just then, Micaela and her mom popped around a corner. Micaela was holding two books.
“Here, I got you these, Kali. Oh, and they’re for you too obviously, Leon. They’re the next two books. I hope you enjoy them.”
“I see you met Flynn. He’s the leader of our small but blossoming group,” said Mrs. Sol.
“Blossoming indeed. People everyday are looking for the True Light even when they don’t know it. Remember that. Micaela, you have two excellent friends here.” He winked at her and continued down the hall after graciously excusing himself.
On the way out, Kali couldn’t stop talking about what an amazing building this was. She went on and on about the Tree of Life and the garden and the castle itself. She talked about how she wished that she had always known about the True Light and how she couldn’t wait to tell Mother and Father.
Leon was silent.
He scowled to himself. This was just a big waste of time. It won’t help me beat Randall. Micaela tricked me. It’s definitely not what I was looking for.
During the car ride back to Bethel, Micaela turned around in her seat in the front and asked, “Leon, are you okay? What happened?”
“I know that face, Leon.” Kali said. She was smiling so big it was annoying. She was going to try to make him talk. She would resort to tickling if nothing else worked. He was prepared for that, but he didn’t want to let it get to tickling. He was in no mood for tickling and especially not in front of Micaela and her mom.
“Stop it,” he said coldly but quietly.
“Come on, Leon.”
“Kalina. Not now.”
There was silence in the car for a moment before Kali went back to talking with Micaela. Minutes later, she tried again.
“Come on, Leon. The castle was so beautiful, and don’t you remember tasting that fruit? How could you be in a bad mood after that?”
Leon said nothing. Micaela’s a loser without powers and she’ll never be cool. True Light will never help her be anybody.
Kali moved closer with tickling fingers.
“No,” Leon said, flashing the whites of his eyes. He was trying to be firm, but keep his voice down.
She waited a few more minutes before her tickling fingers lunged. Leon caught them in mid air, surprising her. “Stop it, Kali,” he burst out.
“Then just tell me what’s wrong. That was the most amazing experience of a lifetime and you’re Mr. Grumpy Gills over there.”
“Fine, I’ll tell you. True Light doesn’t have any superpowers. It’s great and all, but it’s lame. I thought this was going to be the answer to my problems, but it’s nothing. They tricked you into believing in their stupid group in their stupid white castle, but they’re never going to be anything because they don’t have powers. Ya happy now, Kali? Huh?”
Kali was stunned. Micaela abruptly faced forward in her seat. There was awkward silence for the rest of the ride.
The car pulled up to Leon’s house and he hopped out before the care completely stopped. He stomped up the front walkway and threw open the door. On the other side waited a very unexpected guest.
HIS FAMILY WAS GATHERED AROUND the table with a stranger at the head of it. Everyone’s head twisted sharply as Leon burst through the door. Father and Mother looked at him helplessly, while Aidan bubbled with excitement. The light above the dining room table was on, but it felt dampened, subdued. Leon rubbed his eyes. It felt like he were wearing sunglasses. He squinted, trying to see why the whole house felt wrong.
Leon had never met the stranger, but he was familiar. He had white wisps in his hair, but he looked young. Leon had seen his face many times, but not this close, not this real. I think I’ve seen him in videos online or TV or something.
Leon cautiously passed through the living room into the dining room. The stranger stood to shake his hand. He was tall with broad shoulders and he looked commanding in his business suit. He smiled abundantly, but his touch was icy. Leon shuddered. Before the man could introduce himself, Aidan did it for him.
“It’s Kaz Warwick, Leon! Kaz Warwick himself … in our house!”
“Kaz Warwick?” asked Leon slowly. What is he doing in our house?
“That’s right my boy. I’m Kaz Warwick. I’ve come to talk to you, Leon.”
Leon looked at Father. Father was nervously rubbing his forearms. He looked pale and took short breaths. Leon laughed within himself at Father’s plight. It was pretty obvious that having Kaz Warwick at his kitchen table was taking a toll on him.
Mother was rubbing Father’s back with one hand and fidgeting with her earrings with the other. She stared at Kaz with frightful eyes.
Aidan was almost bouncing in his chair. He had to hold himself down by gripping the sides of his chair with both hands. He was asking question after question.
Kali walked in. Everyone turned to look at her. Surprise showed on her face before she bolted for the stairs.
“It’s a shame she doesn’t want to join us. Oh well. Now Leon, please sit. Don’t be intimidated. You’re getting as pale as your father. I often have this effect on people.”
Aidan asked, “Do you remember, sir, when you were behind by ten in the last 17 seconds of the final 4 years ago? And—”
“Please, Aaron, I’m trying to talk to your brother.”
“Aidan. Whatever. Now as I was trying to say, I’m sure you know, Leon, about the videos of you that are practically going viral. That’s how I heard of you myself. People have been calling you a monster or a fraud or a god. I hope that your videos were not altered because they are very intriguing.”
He paused, but hearing no response he impatiently asked, “They weren’t altered were they, boy?”
“No. No, sir.”
“So you really can do what it shows in the video? Amazing.” Kaz sat back in his chair with a pleased smile on his face, rubbing his chin.
Leon timidly sat next to Aidan who was still beaming. Up close, Leon could see signs of aging on Kaz’s face, but he was fit and strong. He carried himself with poise, looking down on Leon’s family with an upturned nose.
“Show me something.”
Leon was caught off guard. He was at a loss. His family looked at him. Kaz looked at him.
“Umm, okay. Just anything?”
“Yes, just make something. No one has ever done what you can. I just want to see it. Make one of those green … things for me.”
Leon stood up. His hands shook. What could I make that will impress him? Not a table or a couch. Not a dog or a shield. Just make something simple.
He held out his right hand and thought about a shadowball ball. Leon was too befuddled to realize that he had no reserve of green energy.
He tried again. He looked at his hand and tried to will a green shadowball ball there. He gritted his teeth and squinted his eyes.
“It’s okay, honey,” Mother started.
“He’s been recovering for a couple weeks. His ribs were broken. He was in the hospital,” said Father.
“That’s okay. Let the boy show me,” said Kaz. He turned back to Leon and nodded with a slight smile.
Suddenly he remembered that the fruit from the Tree of Life had drained his reserves of energy, even dark energy.
“What is it, honey?” Mother asked.
“Nothing. It’s just that … I haven’t … I haven’t done this since … the fight. I must be rusty.”
If it hadn’t been for Micaela, I could dazzle Kaz Warwick with my awesome powers. Why did I even go to that castle with her? It’s all her fault. I’m going to look like a liar to Kaz Warwick. Not only am I a loser to everyone at school, but now Kaz Warwick thinks I’m lame.
“Hmmm,” Kaz sat back in his chair, rubbing his chin. “No matter,” he finally said. “I know you’re still recovering and I’ve seen your abilities on video. I guess I can see it another time. I came to discuss an arrangement and here I’ve gotten so excited about seeing your powers that I’ve forgotten why I came. Forgive me. I’m sure you’ve heard of my Firebolts, yes?”
“Do you remember two years ago in that one game where Derrick Finnburn made that amazing catch? He flew into the air with like a double somersault half spin and the crowd was going wild?” Aidan asked.
Leon was grateful that Aidan had interrupted. It gave Leon a chance to gather his wits. Aidan continued with several stories of amazing plays he could remember.
“Please, please, Aaron. I must continue with your brother.”
“Aidan,” said Aidan, not losing an ounce of enthusiasm.
“Yes, yes. It’s Aidan. Okay.”
When Kaz finally got Aidan calmed down, he continued. “I would have liked your whole family to be present for this, boy,” he said, nodding to Kali upstairs, “but I’m forming another team. Not really another team, but a junior team. You’re obviously not old enough to be on the Firebolts, otherwise I’d recruit you straight to that team. But I want to start a junior Firebolts team for individuals such as yourself with outstanding potential. I will carefully train them so that when they are of age, they will be part of the best generation of Fireboats that the world has ever seen.”
“You’re already the best,” Aidan chuckled.
Kaz looked in his direction and then back at Leon. “I think you have something special, boy. I want you to train with me. What do you say?”
Leon was speechless. The Junior Firebolts! I’ll be the first member of a new team. I’m special. He thinks I’m special. He thinks I have ‘outstanding potential.’
“What about school?” Mother asked before Leon could say anything.
“While the summer lasts we can get a head start on his training,” Kaz said. “We can talk about school when we cross that bridge.”
“He can’t have a job. He’s too young. You can’t hire him,” said Father.
Kaz chuckled. “I didn’t plan on paying him. I thought—”
“You weren’t going to pay him? What is this, slave labor?”
“Think of this as an apprenticeship. Your son will be working closely with a skilled mentor for the summer. Surely that has value enough for you, yes?”
“Where will I train?”
“That’s the spirit, boy. Why you’ll be with me and my Firebolts in Idumea.”
“But that’s hours away. It’s almost all the way to Arizona,” Father said.
Kaz smiled wryly. “It’s only a few minutes if you’re flying.”
“I’m sure I could learn to fly quickly, Dad.”
Father didn’t answer. He stared at Leon with concern in his eyes. Leon knew that meant Father was going to say no. He quickly turned back to Kaz and asked whatever came to mind to give Father more time to get comfortable with the idea before he answered.
“You haven’t invited Randall to join the team, have you?”
“Who is Randall?”
“The boy I fought with.”
“That fat, cowardly kid who wouldn’t fight you man to man? Never.”
Leon smiled. Now is my chance. I’ll be better than Randall in no time. He doesn’t have a coach like Kaz Warwick. I’ll be able to crush him and his puny friends. I will learn all the superpowers and Randall won’t stand a chance against me.
“He’s still recovering from some bad injuries. It might be months before he’s okay to train and then school will start again. I don’t think this is a good time for him. Thank you, Mr. Warwick, but maybe next year,” said Mother.
Leon’s mouth dropped open. Aidan was just as surprised.
“This is an opportunity he may not want to pass up, you see? It might be too late by next year,” said Kaz. “What do you think, boy?”
Leon looked at Aidan, who was nodding so fast his head was going to come off. Leon looked over to Mother and Father. Neither looked happy with this, but neither had said no explicitly. Since they hadn’t decided yet, it was up to Leon.
“I’m in. I’m so in.”
AFTER KAZ LEFT, HIS FAMILY had a long discussion. Mother and Father opposed the idea of Kaz Warwick training Leon, but given Father’s track record of despising Kaz, that was to be expected. Aidan was completely jealous and happy for Leon and fully supported it.
Kali also told them all about the castle in Shiloh and the tree and the fruit and the books. Leon mentioned that eating the fruit had somehow drained all his energy and Kali said the same. She was a lot less concerned about it than Leon was.
When everyone had gone to bed, Leon snuck downstairs and started his training session. At first it wouldn’t happen. The dark wouldn’t come. But then slowly he could feel it seeping in. It crept up his arm and into his nose and mouth. It filled his lungs.
That’s when he ran upstairs. It wasn’t like the other times. There was something menacing and scary about it. It felt alive. It was trying to capture him, take control of him. The thought of being in the basement in the dark by himself made him huddle under his blanket on his bed with a flashlight. The batteries were dead by morning, but he was still shaking.
That day, he continued reading Micaela’s book, Disciple of Light. He came to the part where The Avalon defeats the Grimlock and 1,000 wolves, but the book said it was Cade that defeated them. He was the hero and he used his dark powers to save the town.
Leon tried again that night, thinking of Cade. He thought of himself as the hero. It started to feel like it had used to feel and Leon didn’t feel afraid. He scoffed at himself for being so scared of the dark energy. It wasn’t something scary. He had done it before and it had always felt powerful and good.
With his renewed confidence he was able to use his powers. He began learning to fly, though Kali refused to help him.
After a few days of flying, Leon was sure he could fly all the way to Idumea. Kaz told him to start coming that next Monday for training.
On that first Monday morning, Leon flew through the air like a bullet. It was exhilarating. I’m an aeronaut!
He saw other people flying in different directions several miles away in the sky. In his mind he raced them and pushed himself to fly faster. Looking down he saw little specs appearing and disappearing along the desert floor. It was dumbledores apparating repeatedly. He thought how tedious it must be to travel that way, but he thought that if he got powerful enough, maybe he would be able to teleport right to Idumea from his house.
He also saw long, straight lines being drawn in the sand. It took a moment to realize what it was, but then he realized that it was speeders running through the desert and the lines were the dust they were kicking up behind them. He smiled contently at himself.
I can learn all the powers. I’m going to be the most amazing person on the planet.
And then he flew faster.
He landed in Idumea with a total flight time of about 35 minutes. It was longer than Kaz said, but that just meant that Leon needed to fly faster next time. Faster wasn’t what Leon wanted to think about. He was exhausted. He wanted to tell Kaz that he had had enough training for the day except that that would mean he would need to fly back home.
Before landing Leon had spotted the training facility near the south side of the large city. Instead of flying directly there, he landed on the outskirts and walked. He needed to catch his breath.
Leon frowned. Idumea was not like Shiloh or even Bethel. Trash lined the streets. The paint on buildings was faded and every other building had broken windows. A silence seemed to hang over the whole city like everything was muted.
When he made it to the training facility, he walked to the front and tried the main entrance. A guard stood with his arms folded, frowning just inside the door. He was wearing a dark uniform and an earpiece. Any weapon he had wasn’t visible. Leon wondered what superpower he had that made him fit to be a guard. Super strength? Speed? Teleporting? He didn’t want to find out.
“Are you Leon Torvell?” The man’s voice was a squeaky mouse.
Leon had to try hard to suppress the snort of laughter that was bubbling inside. He simply nodded.
The man spoke on his radio to announce Leon’s arrival.
Another fit of laughter wanted to burst out, but getting on this guard’s bad side was not a good idea. He covered his mouth with the back of his hand and waited while another guard entered from the hallway on the left.
Leon managed to get out a thank-you before he turned and followed the new guard. This new guard was dressed as the other, but was much less muscular in the torso. His legs were another story.
Leon was escorted up a gold-plated elevator. The whole facility was so different from the rest of the city. Everything inside was flashy and showy with gold everywhere and bright pictures. It was cold and sterile like a hospital and overly lit. Large TV screens filled whole walls. They showed a continuous stream of highlights of famous games won by the Firebolts.
The guard didn’t say a word to Leon the whole walk. Leon was dying to find out if his voice was the same as the last guard, but he had no such luck.
Leon was dumped off at a big, gold door. The guard entered a code on a keypad to the left and pushed the door ajar before walking back down the hallway the way they came.
Leon continued onward into the room. It was a typical cluttered office. Behind the large executive chair was a wall-sized window and its view was the practice field below. The chair was turned toward the window, but at the sound of Leon approaching, it spun around to reveal Kaz sitting comfortably. He must have been using telekinesis to spin around because he didn’t move his crossed legs or his hands which held up his chin and rested on the arms of the chair.
“See? It’s not that far of a flight, now is it?”
“Well, it will take some getting used to. I was pretty tired.”
“You exaggerate. It will be the easiest part of your training.”
Oh boy. That doesn’t sound good.
“Come to the window, Leon. Have you ever seen the Firebolts play?”
Leon scuttled to the large window. “Just once.”
He stared down at the players. They were all much older than Leon, probably in their twenties. They were sprinting around the edge of the upper deck in a straight line.
Leon had been apprehensive to see Kaz again because of the strange feelings he had the night that Kaz was in his house. But all the apprehension had dissipated immediately. He must have been out of sorts that night because Kaz felt perfectly normal to him now. He was friendly and confident. He came off as a little cocky perhaps, but that will happen when you are the richest man in the world.
“You’ve already passed my first test, Leon.”
“I did? What did I do?”
“You learned to fly.”
“Well, I had to so I could get here.”
“Yes, but not everyone that trains in the dark arts can learn all the powers.”
“What?” Leon asked.
“Most of the Firebolts team only knows two or maybe three of the powers. You have learned them all, I believe.”
Leon chuckled nervously. “Well, I’ve only got four of them down, actually. Dumbledore, lantern, mindbender, and aeronaut.”
“I see. I suppose there are a few more for you to learn, but you’ve got the important ones down. No one needs healing to play shadowball, am I right?”
Leon chuckled nervously. “You sure don’t, sir.”
“A few more and you’ll be able to do more with your powers than most people on the planet. By learning to fly you’ve proved that you can master all the powers. And on top of that, you can do that wonderful trick with your lantern abilities.”
Leon continued to watch the players below. They were now passing the ball back and forth. They would try to throw it way out of the reach of another so that he’d have to teleport or fly to catch it. Leon couldn’t wait to start practicing such moves. His heart started beating quickly. He imagined himself down on the field, wearing their black jersey, passing the ball to his teammates. A smile crossed his lips.
“Is it true that your team has other superpowers?”
Kaz frowned slightly. “Those are just rumors. There are only the nine powers. My team is just the best because they are the best players.”
Leon sighed. “Oh well. It would have been cool.”
“What’s cool is what you can do. That is truly a new superpower. You must show it to me now.”
Leon nodded and then turned back to look at the players on the field. He then realized that Kaz meant right that instant. He clumsily stepped back from the window. He had made sure before he left home that he had plenty of green energy. A green shadowball ball appeared in his right hand. He tossed it up and down slightly into the air. Kaz smiled widely. He motioned for the ball and Leon threw it to him.
Kaz caught it with a look of wonder on his face. He stared at the ball closely and his face turned green from the light. He held it up above his head and put it down below his waist, looking at it from every angle.
After a few more moments he tossed it back to Leon, but instead of catching it, Leon let it dissipate into nothing. The green light that had been shining on both of them was no more.
“Since I’ve seen your videos I’ve tried to replicate what you can do. I cannot do it. And here you make this incredible thing without nary a thought before my very eyes. Boy, you are a marvel.”
Leon smiled awkwardly. This is where I belong. It’s what I was meant to do. I am a marvel.
Kaz ushered Leon down the hall to where he would begin training.
“You know, Kaz, sir, my silly friend says that these superpowers are just a distraction so that people won’t notice some supposed war between Light and Dark, but being here I know that superpowers are my calling in life. This is what I’ve always been meant to do.”
Kaz stopped and glared into Leon’s eyes, searching for something. He must have been satisfied because he smiled at Leon and clasped his hand onto Leon’s shoulder.
“Your friend is not completely wrong. You’ve stumbled upon one of the great truths of this world. We are at war. One side wants humankind to stagnate forever, but I believe that superpowers are the next step in the evolution of humans. We are better and more capable than any generation before us, boy.
“What I have created gives us abilities beyond our ancestors’ imaginations. And you’ve discovered that dark energy unlocks these abilities. Anyone could potentially learn what you have learned, but we don’t want just anyone to have all the powers. It’s too dangerous. Only elite, special individuals like myself and like you should have access to be all powerful.
“And so I have devised a system that keeps the common folk distracted. They play their little games on their phones all day and get mere seconds of basking time so that they can fly a little or mindbend a little. It’s just enough to keep them satisfied, but not you. You wanted more. That’s why you’re special, Leon. That’s why you’ve come so far.”
Leon had never felt so honored. He belonged here. This was his destiny, his purpose. I’m finally doing what I’m supposed to do with my life. I’m not a loser anymore.
“Oh, one more thing. Let me see your phone.”
Leon handed him his phone with curious dread. Kaz tapped and swiped a few times. He typed something in and then it asked for him to identify himself. It had never asked Leon to do that. Kaz stated his full name slowly. He swiped a few more times and then handed it back to Leon.
“What did you do to it?”
“I’ve given you full access to all the light you could ever want. You don’t have to play games anymore to make it emit light. You can get exposure to any color of light whenever you want. Not that you’ll need it much, boy, but if you ever find yourself out of energy, it can give you a quick recharge.”
Kaz led him to an ugly brown door. Looking through the small window, Leon could see that it did not lead to the practice field, but to a small workout gym. Kaz simply told him to workout both with his powers and without.
And without a word more, Kaz left him in the musty room and closed the door. Leon surveyed the equipment. He had seen this stuff in videos, but he had no idea what to do with it. He walked in circles for the first several minutes, looking at all the weights and machines. It all looked so hard.
A light flickered in one corner of the room. The room felt so silent. Leon felt alone, abandoned. He knew this is where he belonged, but he thought there would be people cheering him on or something.
Eventually he chose a treadmill. It seemed easy enough and probably a good place to start. He hoped on. He started the treadmill at a very quick pace. It sounded muffled. Weird. It’s like nothing in here wants to make a sound. After just a moment he was breathing heavily and had to slow it down.
“If only I had super speed. This would be a breeze,” he said aloud just so he could hear something, anything.
He ran until sweat poured down his face and his shirt was wet around the neck. When he got off, he wandered around for a while to let the sweat dry. He noticed a curious control panel near the door. One of the controls said color and so he pressed it. Nine large buttons appeared, each was one of the nine colors. He pushed green. The lights in the room turned off and a second later the room was flooded with green light. Everything looked very different colored all in green.
Leon smiled. He could feel the green light penetrating his skin. He pushed red and again the lights turned off momentarily before coming back on in a brilliant red color. His eyes found the treadmill and an idea was born.
“I do have super speed. I just haven’t used it yet.”
He jabbed the indigo button and waited for the room to turn indigo. He made his way back to the treadmill. Looking around, he took off his shirt. It felt awkward, even though he was alone. Holding his arms across his chest, he got on the treadmill and started running.
He concentrated on dark power as he stared at the mirror wall in front of him. He immediately felt it crawling inward. It came so easily. Is it something about this room that makes it even easier for the dark energy? Is it because it knows me already and will follow my command to enter me? I don’t know, but it feels good, powerful. It’s like I’m invincible. His energy reserves were enormous and especially his indigo reserve.
Though he had never used super speed, it came very easy to him. He ran so fast that he almost ripped the tread off the treadmill. But when he stopped, the treadmill threw him off the back like he had seen on so many funny videos. It hurt much more than the people in the videos let on. He sat up smiling.
It had been too easy for him to use super speed. The indigo lights above him were so piercing and the dark energy came so easily. He had learned a new power in just minutes. If only I had learned mindbending or teleporting so easily!
Brimming with confidence, Leon turned the room’s lights to blue and found the biggest weight he could. He used his mind to lift it. It was heavier than he expected, but he lifted it with ease thanks to the dark energy multiplying his mindbending power. He placed it delicately back on the ground, with a wide grin smeared all over his face.
Leon spent hours mindbending weights, running, tumbling, hovering, and apparating. It was the best time of his life. He was so tired by the end of it, but he really looked forward to doing it again tomorrow.
Leon found his way back up to Kaz’s office. He had to ask a few guards, but he didn’t run into the one with the squeaky voice. He even went back to the building entrance looking for that guard, but couldn’t find him.
As he opened the door, Leon saw someone standing near the window. He couldn’t believe his eyes.
Fight or Flight
RANDALL WAS STANDING NEAR THE window. He was laughing with Kaz Warwick. Leon’s blood boiled. His face grew hot. His mind clouded with anger. Dark energy pumped in his veins.
“You promised me!” Leon yelled at Kaz.
“What do you mean—”
“You promised me that he wouldn’t be on the Junior Firebolts!”
Randall was going to join the Junior Firebolts and steal the spotlight from Leon. Everyone is going to think he is just as good as I am, but I’m special. I was going to be the first one to ever be a Junior Firebolt. Not us together.
“You said I was special. You said I was amazing.”
“You are, boy. You’re both special.”
Leon’s world was crumbling around him. How could Kaz do this to me? I have to stop him.
“He told me you were friends. Why wouldn’t you want to be on the Firebolts together? I’m sure we can come to some sort of agreement,” Kaz said, a smile curled on his lips.
“We’re not friends! He betrayed me and now he’s doing it again. This was my chance. I was going to show the world that I am special. Both of you betrayed me!”
“Leon, I didn’t know,” Randall said.
Leon’s body began shaking. Tears welled in his eyes and his teeth grinded together. His eyes focused on Randall and without thinking, he charged.
He ran straight into Randall with all the strength he could muster and rammed him towards the glass window behind them. Leon feared they would break the glass, cutting themselves up, so he pushed hard on it with his mind. It shattered outward just in time for them to fall through the window unharmed.
They hurled towards the upper deck of the practice field below. What did I just do? Does Randall know how to fly yet? If not, he’s really in trouble. Maybe this is for the best. A few serious injuries will get him off the roster. Permanently.
Leon let go of Randall and slowly floated down toward the upper deck. He watched Randall fall. It didn’t look like he could fly. Leon quickly suppressed the guilt for hurting him. He deserves it.
Instead of landing, Randall disappeared and apparated just above Leon. As he fell, he grabbed Leon around the neck. It pulled Leon down quickly, but he regained control and slowed their descent to a safe level.
“Nice try, but you’re going to have to fly,” said Leon. He teleported away and let Randall continue to fall. Randall apparated again like last time, but before he could grab onto Leon’s shoulders, Leon teleported away.
Leon apparated just above the ground on the upper deck and stopped his momentum enough to land. He watched Randall with anticipation, but his crash landing never came. Instead of crashing into the ground, he hovered a few feet above it, glaring at Leon.
“So you can fly,” said Leon.
“Just learned,” said Randall with a shaky voice. He was breathing heavily and sweat beaded on his forehead.
“Clever,” said Leon.
“Leon, you’ve gone mad. The Dark Void has control of you.”
“The Dark Void? Have you been talking to Micaela? You don’t know what it’s doing to me. I’m more powerful than ever.”
Dark energy surged into him and he felt his muscles tighten. It gave him strength and even more power.
“It’s consuming you, Leon. You’ve changed. You’re not right.”
“No! What isn’t right is that you’re here. I’m the one who’s special. I belong on the Junior Firebolts. So get out of here!”
Leon’s rage turned into a green ball in his hands and he flung it at Randall with everything inside him. Randall dodged it easily, but Leon threw another and another.
He was floating in the air now, throwing anything that he could at Randall. Randall began flying upward, away from Leon. Leon apparated so that he was above Randall and pushed him downward with his mindbending.
Randall teleported away. Leon turned to his right and saw him on the other side of the field, flying towards the ceiling. He was going fast like he was trying to ram it. Is he going to try to bust through it? He’s crazy. It’s too thick. He’ll bounce off or kill himself.
Leon almost couldn’t watch as Randall crashed into the ceiling. Wait, where did he go? Leon couldn’t see him anywhere. He teleported. That back stabber teleported out of the building and now he’s getting away from me.
Leon jumped and rocketed toward the ceiling. He tried to guess how thick the ceiling was, but he wasn’t sure. I’ll just have to teleport as far as I can upward. He neared the ceiling and pushed himself faster. He teleported just before impact, trying to imagine apparating in the sky above the building.
It worked. He was in the sky high above the building. He looked towards home and saw a small figure flying away. Randall.
Leon teleported as far as he could towards Randall and then flew as fast as he could, teleporting to catch up. When he was close enough, he started throwing green balls of rage at him. It slowed him down, but he kept teleporting to stay within range.
Randall bobbed and weaved to try to evade, but he wasn’t very graceful in the air. He teleported here and there, but Leon stayed close. Green balls weren’t enough. He needed something with more kick. He needed something that would actually stun him or stop him.
Leon imagined some sort of bazooka that fired a net and it appeared on his shoulder. He aimed a green net at Randall, but missed. Randall teleported. Leon followed. Randall evaded by slowing down so that Leon passed him. Leon turned and fired. Another miss. Randall sped up and did a barrel roll. Leon fired. Missed.
“Stop,” Randall shouted.
“This is crazy, Leon. You’re hunting me like an animal.”
“You stabbed me in the back like a hunter.”
“Listen. Micaela told me you’re learning about the True Light too. I know you know the truth. Dark energy is the Dark Void. Kaz Warwick is not a good man. Don’t join the Junior Firebolts.”
“Why? So you can take my place? No way.”
Leon threw a green table at Randall. It wasn’t the best weapon, but it was the first thing that came to mind. Randall apparated above Leon.
“You know this is true, Leon. I know you know it. Remember how I’ve always tried to be like The Avalon. Here’s my chance. I’m going to follow him. You should too.”
“True Light is weak. And I won’t be weak ever again. You made me this way. When you almost killed me with your new friends, you made me realize that I will never stop until I am more powerful than you and your army of rejects. I will be like Kaz Warwick himself. I belong with him.”
“I’m sorry, Leon. I’m so sorry. I’ve thought about that night every minute of every day. I’m sorry for what we did to you. It’s what made me change. I wasn’t like The Avalon that night. I was weak and scared. But from now on, I’m going to do what The Avalon would do.”
“I don’t believe you,” Leon spat.
He’s just saying that so he can take my place on the Junior Firebolts. He wants me to be weak so he’ll be the only special one on the new team. I won’t buy it. I will show the world who is the special one.
Leon threw a piano and then a car towards Randall. He barely dodged them. They were nearing Bethel. Leon didn’t have much time, but Randall was getting sluggish and tired. Leon was sweating and breathing heavily as well, but he knew he could out last Randall.
He flew faster. He got close to Randall. He could almost grab his ankles. Randall teleported away. Leon followed. Randall flew faster. Leon apparated in front of Randall, but Randall flew downward and avoided his grasp.
“You won’t get away from me. I won’t stop until I get you.”
Leon could see the fear in Randall’s eyes, the panic. He knew what was coming and he knew it was only a matter of time.
As they approached the town, Randall dove downward. Leon pursued. He pushed himself hard and grabbed Randall’s ankle.
“I have you now.”
Randall kicked free and then teleported away. Leon looked around, but couldn’t see where he had apparated. He looked above him and to his sides frantically.
Where did he go? Did he teleport into town? Where is he?
They were above the park. Leon remembered their favorite spot near the large tree and flew towards it. He teleported and flew until he was hovering near it. He floated around it to see all sides. No sign of Randall. He looked all around him and listened for any sound.
Randall had escaped.
“No!” he screamed. “I had you, Randall. You’re a coward.”
Troubles at Home
LEON WAS UTTERLY EXHAUSTED WHEN he got home. He plodded in the front door with a gnawing at his stomach.
Kali passed him on the way to the dinner table. She was walking instead of floating just above the ground.
“What’s with you, Kali? Why aren’t you flying everywhere anymore? Sick of gloating?”
She looked at him confused and angry. “Nice to see you, too.”
She turned and continued to the table. Mother was just putting down the casserole on the table.
“This again? Geez. We never have good food.”
Father looked up from his phone and stared at Leon.
“What?” asked Leon.
“Bad first day of training?” asked Father.
“No, it was awesome.”
Father looked confused. “Then what’s wrong?”
“You wouldn’t get it.”
Father shrugged and went back to his phone.
As the meal started, Kali was staring at Leon.
“Nothing. It’s just Micaela’s coming over tonight to teach us more.”
“Too bad,” Leon said. “I’m going to be practicing my powers.”
“Alright, geez. Just asking. No need to bite my head off. She said she wants to tell us about the plan. I thought you would be interested.”
“What plan, honey?” Father asked.
“Oh Dad, you should listen. I don’t really know, but it’s something about the reason for everything. Like why we’re here.”
“Here?” Aidan asked.
“Yeah, like why we are alive. That’s what she said at least. Will all of you listen with me?”
“Of course, sweetie. You’re really getting into this White Light stuff, aren’t you?”
“True Light, Dad,” Kali said smiling. “Yeah, I’m trying to not use my powers anymore, because, um well this is kind of important, Dad. I already told Mom, but I want to be immersed at the castle.”
“Immersed? What does that mean?”
“You believe that stuff?” Leon asked.
“You should too, Leon. You felt it. Remember the fruit?”
“Whatever. They don’t have powers, Kali. I don’t care.”
“But Leon don’t you remember the music?” Kali pleaded.
“What music?” asked Aidan.
“Just somebody playing the piano. It’s nothing.”
“That’s not true, Leon, and you know it. Flynn says you can hear it when you are following the light.”
“I follow the light. Green, red, blue—”
“I said I don’t care.”
“Hey, that’s no way to talk to your sister,” Mother said.
Leon looked down at his food and picked at it with his fork. There was an awkward silence. Man, everyone is so annoying today. I thought I could feel better at home, but I just wanna get away from them, all of them.
“What did you mean you want to be immersed, Kali?” asked Aidan, ignoring the glare from Leon.
“Oh, so I don’t know much, but it’s a beautiful ceremony where I officially become a follower of the True Light.”
“That sounds like a big decision, dear,” said Father. “I’ll have to talk about it with Mom.”
“Oh please, Daddy. I really want to do this.” She pleaded with her hands clasped and in such a sickeningly sweet tone.
“Doesn’t that mean you’ll lose your powers forever?” asked Leon. “You’ll be a freak, like Micaela.”
“Finally you won’t be the only one, Leon,” Aidan laughed.
Everyone laughed, except Leon. He just shook his head and scowled.
“Oh come on, Leon,” said Mother. “Now that you’re training on the Junior Firebolts, you can’t laugh with your family?”
“Not when they’re laughing at me, but guess what, Aidan? Kaz gave my phone this thing where I can have all the light I want in any color, whenever,” said Leon with all the boasting he could muster. “That’s right, Aidan. You heard right. Being on the leaderboard isn’t that cool anymore, because I can get all the light I want.”
“What? No smart remark?”
“What has gotten into you, son?” Father asked. “You come home from one day of training with that man and now you think you’re better than everyone? Huh? What is your problem?”
“What?” asked Father.
“Randall’s my problem. Kaz Warwick lied to me and now Randall’s on the Junior Firebolts and my one chance to show the world that I’m special, that I’m somebody, is ruined. That’s what’s wrong.”
There was silence.
Leon stood to go up to his room. Before he made it to the living room, Father spoke in a soothing, comforting tone. “But son, you are somebody to us. You’re important and talented and amazing. We love you.”
Leon turned. He could hear the sincerity in Father’s voice. He felt for the first time in a while that he was truly loved by the four people at the table. They all looked at him with concern. Concern and love aren’t enough to be special in this world. You have to be powerful.
“But Dad, you can’t even fly.”
Mist and Light
LEON DIDN’T PRACTICE HIS POWERS in the basement. Instead he listened to Micaela. He was on the basement steps where no one would see him, of course. He had started practicing, with the door open since it wasn’t a secret anymore, but because of that he could hear their conversation and it caught his attention.
“Have any of you ever lost anyone?” Micaela asked.
“No,” said Kali.
Yes we have. Nona and Papa.
“You were too young to remember it, Kali, but she lost her grandparents when she was just a baby,” said Mother.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” said Micaela “I’m sorry to bring it up, but do you remember what it was like, Mrs. Torvell?”
“Yes, unfortunately. It was a terrible day for us all.”
“Could … could you tell us about it. How did they, um, pass?”
Leon pictured in his mind the day that they became mist and floated away. He tried not to remember the vision he had after eating the fruit from the white tree in the castle, but those feelings of anguish and joy returned. Luckily, no one could see him. Tears formed in his eyes. I miss Nona and Papa. They would be able to fix the mess I’ve made of things.
“Well, just like anyone dies. They got sick and one day they just turned into mist and floated away with the wind.”
“That’s not how real people die,” said Micaela.
Real people? Excuse me?
“What do you mean?” Father asked.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that. Oh, I’m so sorry.” Micaela sounded muffled like she was covering her mouth.
Mrs. Sol said, “What Micaela is trying to say is that people only die that way because the Dark Void is in control of the world. When you are a follower of the True Light, your body remains on the earth after you die. We have a ceremony and bury them in the ground because we know we’ll see them again some day.”
That’s weird. How can people stay after they die? Why does following the True Light change anything? And why bury them in the ground?
“What do you mean that the Dark Void is in control of the world?” Father asked.
Kali said, “Dad, True Light was almost extinguished from the Earth, like forever. People followed the Void so much more that True Light had little hold on people’s hearts. Flynn, the guy I told you about in the castle is the descendent—”
She paused to think.
“No wait, I mean his father is the descendent of generations of leaders of the True Light. With his hard work it started to come back. People started to care about the purpose of life. But the Void would not be stopped and in order to win the war, the nine superpowers were created. It would seem like they are good, because like just like white light is made up of all the colors of the rainbow, it makes you think that the colored powers come from True Light.”
Micaela shook her head and continued. “But they are really just mockeries of it. Dark has tricked the world into forgetting about this war that is raging. All they care about is staring at their phones so they can have stronger superpowers and they don’t see that the Void has lied to them.”
There was a short pause.
“That’s a lot to take in,” said Aidan. “How can we know that that is true? I mean, not to doubt you, but if that’s true, it means we need to change the way we’re living.”
“I understand your concern, Aidan,” said Mrs. Sol. “And it’s okay. You don’t have to just believe us. Listen to the music.”
“Music has always been a sign that you are fulfilling your purpose, that you are on the right path,” said Kali with a chirp in her voice.
Leon put his head in his hands. The soft song played quietly in his ears. It felt as if it were far away and at the same time inside of him. It was undeniable. It felt comforting and peaceful.
Leon tried with his whole being not to hear it. Because even though it brought peace and comfort to one part of him, to the other part it brought despair and strife. He wanted to be powerful, to be cool, to show the world that he was amazing. He thought it was his purpose to know all the powers and to use his special green ability.
But the song…
IT WAS THE SONG THAT made Leon open Disciple of Light again. He wanted to hear it again. He hoped it would calm his heart and his mind.
Since hearing Micaela from the basement steps, he hadn’t stopped pacing back and forth on the basement rug. There was something wrong with his life, but he didn’t know how to fix it. He could see two paths. One was the path of dark energy where he would be powerful and cool. The other was the path of True Light where he would be powerless but he would be guided by the sweet melody of his song.
He didn’t know which path to take, and his thoughts kept coming back to Randall. Everything started going downhill when Randall betrayed him. It was because of Randall that he was in this mess. At least, that’s what he thought when he couldn’t hear the song. With the song in his ear, his thoughts seemed to be clearer. And so he resorted to Micaela’s book for answers.
Leon sometimes felt this book was written about his life. Cade was almost in the same situation that he was. Although their society was based more on war and physically fighting for what they believed, Leon felt like he too was in a fight for his beliefs, his destiny. He wasn’t in a physical fight like Cade and The Avalon were, but his was a battle for his heart.
Cade would not give up his dark powers though he wanted to follow The Avalon. Without his dark energy, he wouldn’t be able to defend himself and the followers of Light. The Avalon told him that he could not be on the fence, but that he must choose one or the other.
His deciding moment was when The Avalon told him to go into the woods in order to go on what he called a Torchwalk. The Avalon explained that anciently a Torchwalk was a rite of passage for children to signify that they were ready to be adults, and that even though they no longer were used as such, maybe a Torchwalk would give Cade the answers he needed.
After wandering through the forest, fighting for answers, Cade saw a pillar of light and heard a voice sing to him. His heart was forever changed. He was no longer on the fence. He became firmly rooted in the Light.
In their final battle against the forces of the Dark Void, The Avalon was killed. They had a ceremony for him and buried him within the grounds of their first castle. Cade was named their leader and became known as The Avalon. The book ended and Leon slowly closed it.
It was Cade all along in all the legends that I’ve heard since I was a toddler. Cade was The Avalon. Cade, a boy who started as a follower of the Dark Void, who was the most powerful warrior with dark energy, who couldn’t decide if he wanted to completely follow the Light. He became The Avalon. ‘The Avalon’ was just a title until Cade made it a legendary hero.
Leon sat in silence, enjoying the piano tune in his heart and thinking about his two paths.
I need a Torchwalk. I need to go face my demons and find my answers. I could fly to the mountains and maybe I’ll find answers there. That’s exactly what I’ll do. I’ll fly to the top of the mountains and sit there until I know which path to take.
And then Leon remembered Randall.
He’s the whole reason I’m in this mess. Everything started going downhill when he betrayed me. I can’t find my path in life until I put an end to Randall’s tyranny over my life. I’m going to beat him once and for all. And then I’ll be able to go on my Torchwalk.
Then the thought struck him that he could easily sneak over to Randall’s house that very night. He could pull him out of bed and throw him out the window. Then he could rail on him a little and be back before his parents were the wiser.
Leon floated silently up the stairs to the living room. Everyone had long since gone to their rooms to play on their phones. He floated upstairs to his room and opened the window as slowly as he could with his mind. He slipped out of it and looked up at the crescent moon high in the night sky.
It’s a beautiful night for revenge.
Swiftly he flew through the air. The cold on his feet made him realize he had forgotten to put on shoes or socks. He thought to turn back, but decided he didn’t need them. He could win without them.
He landed silently next to Randall’s house. It was near the same spot where he had tumbled off the roof. Pushed off the roof, he reminded himself. Standing below Randall’s bedroom window, Leon was suddenly unsure of himself. Had Randall been training that whole day like I was at the Firebolts’ stadium? What if Randall gets in one dirty punch to the ribs? Would that be the end of me? Would my ribs break again? Once ribs heal, are they easier to break the next time?
He called on the dark energy to strengthen him and as soon as he felt its power, he called to Randall.
Unexpectedly, the window flew open immediately.
Leon hadn’t thought about what he was going to say. “It’s Leon. Get down here and fight me.”
“Don’t make me drag you out of the window. We’re going to end this now.”
“You’re not even wearing shoes.”
“I’m ready for you. Come down here.” Leon floated up to the window so that he was at eye level with Randall. He was still the width of the roof away from him, but he could glare at him with ease.
“What, can you shoot laser beams out of your eyes, now? Are you going to melt me?”
“If you think you’re so tough, come out and prove it.”
“Leon, I don’t want to fight you anymore.”
“You lost that choice when you almost killed me with your new friends.”
Randall crawled out of his window onto the roof. He was wearing pajamas and was also barefoot. He sat down and folded his legs. This surprised and angered Leon. Randall wasn’t afraid, but he looked sad.
“Leon, buddy, please believe me when I tell you I’m sorry. I didn’t want you to get hurt like that. I just wanted everybody to think I was cool, but it wasn’t worth seeing you hurt. I think about it everyday and I just wish that you would forgive me so we can be friends again.”
“No,” Leon grunted. “This is my revenge. I must have it.”
“Do as you wish, Leon. I deserve it,” said Randall.
“Stop that. Fight me. This time I will beat you.”
Randall sat silently.
“Coward. Get up and fight.”
Randall said nothing.
“Then I’ll make you get up,” Leon snarled. He grabbed Randall with his mind and flung him to ground below. Randall’s body slammed against the side of the house and then crunched on the ground with sickening, cringe-worthy sounds.
Randall lay on the ground, unmoving. Leon floated closer to him. He felt a stab of guilt and wondered if she should stop, until slowly Randall lifted his head. The guilt was gone. Leon made a large, green refrigerator appear over Randall’s head. It was the first heavy object that came to mind.
Randall looked at Leon. There was no anger in his eyes. There was friendship and hope. Even though I’m about to crush him, he still won’t fight back!? He’s sacrificing himself so that I can get what I want. The guilt returned, hard. He remembered suddenly the feelings he had when biting the white fruit from the Tree of Life and the thing that Micaela had told them about Christ, their Savior. He sacrificed himself to save us all. Leon understood it now and it pierced his tormented heart.
I don’t need revenge to be healed. I don’t need acceptance from the kids at school or from Kaz Warwick for that matter. I need to follow the True Light.
And so Leon let go. He let go of revenge, of his hatred, of the refrigerator. He let it all go and for a brief instant, felt at peace.
In the midst of that moment of peace, Leon realized that he had let go of the refrigerator. He found himself watching in horror as it slammed down on Randall. Randall had made an orange force shield bubble around him as the fridge dropped. Whew, that will protect him. The force shield shattered and the fridge landed hard on Randall.
Leon’s heart stopped. Or time stopped. Leon wasn’t sure. Everything seemed to stand still. He saw the crumpled form of his friend lying on the ground. He wasn’t moving. Leon felt sick. After all this time of trying so hard to beat his best friend, he finally had. He won. He beat Randall.
But his victory was bitter and painful. He felt disgusted with himself. He wanted to run away and hide under a rock. Maybe the rock will crush me and I won’t have to feel this way anymore. But he couldn’t run from the guilt, the anguish of soul.
Leon floated hastily over to Randall and landed on one knee. He checked for breathing first. Randall was wheezing. Good! Still alive, at least. The burden of guilt lifted just a little. He’s going to hate me forever. I betrayed him. He trusted me that I wouldn’t hurt him. He didn’t even fight back and I took that trust and crushed it with a refrigerator.
Leon’s mind wasn’t thinking straight and his thoughts were filled with panic. He began sweating. Randall’s wheezing breaths slowed even more.
I don’t know what’s wrong with him. Let’s see, a heavy object would break some bones maybe. His lungs might have collapsed. Maybe his spleen ruptured. Oh I don’t know. I need a healer. Where can I go for a healer? Let’s see the hospital usually has them on staff, but then they’ll ask how he got hurt. Do I know anyone who is a healer? Maybe that one weird guy in my Algebra class, Cody or Clancy or something? No, I can’t do that. What do I do?
Healer. I need a healer. Oh wait, I can heal. I can heal! Hmm, I don’t feel any brown light energy. Oh right, I need some brown light. Where can I get brown light? My phone! Thank you, Kaz!
Leon fumbled with his phone until he found where Kaz had showed him. He chose brown light from the array of buttons on the screen and just like that, brown light was shining on his face.
He felt a new reserve of brown energy fill his body and he enhanced it with all the dark energy he could coax into his body. Next, he grabbed Randall’s arm. What he had seen of healing he had only seen in videos, but in his mind he sent healing vibes into Randall’s body.
How do I know if this is working?
Leon suddenly saw in his mind a broken bone in Randall’s arm and broken ribs. It startled him a little, but it must have been the healing power that showed him what was wrong. He thought about the bones being healed all the while coaxing energy into Randall.
The images of the broken bones left his mind. He wasn’t sure if that meant they were fixed or if he did something wrong, but then he saw a gross organ-looking thing in his head and tried to imagine it being healed as well.
Randall coughed. He sounded a little better, maybe. He breathed normally without any wheezing. He slowly opened his eyes.
Leon felt happy for just a second. He had possibly saved Randall, but he had saved him from a death that Leon himself almost caused. I’ll never live this down. He’ll never call me friend again. I tried to kill him. This is the end of our friendship. I’m a monster.
Leon teleported away.
LEON DIDN’T LEAVE HIS HOUSE until he was practically forced to on the day of Kali’s Immersion.
“Get out of bed, take a shower, get some nice clothes on, and stop moping around,” Father said. “This is a special day for your sister, for the whole family. You’re not going to ruin it because you’re depressed about the Junior Firebolts.”
Leon hadn’t told him about Randall. He hadn’t told him how he almost killed his best friend. He didn’t even tell Aidan or Kali. They would have all hated him. He was a monster. He had turned into a killer. Who could love a killer?
When he was finally dressed, the rest of the family was practically honking the horn to get him out the door on time. He wore black slacks with a white belt and a green, button-up, shirt that Mother detested.
“If we weren’t leaving right this instant, I’d tell you to go back upstairs and change,” said Mother.
When they arrived at the castle and got out of the car, Leon saw that Father was dressed in a pressed white button-up shirt and black slacks. Mother had bought him a royal blue tie, or at least that’s what Leon assumed because he had never seen Father wear a tie before. He looked impressive.
Aidan was dressed the same minus a tie, but Mother and Kali really stole the show. They had bought dresses just for this occasion. Mother’s was white with gold accents and Kali’s had purple and yellow flowers on it. They both had their hair done up and had makeup on. Leon thought they glowed. He’d never seen them look so beautiful before.
Father, Aidan, and Mother were just as impressed and overwhelmed with the inside of the castle as Leon and Kali had been. They looked all around, mouths gaping in awe on several occasions.
They were ushered up to a small waiting room where the rest of the family sat while Kali went into a dressing room and got dressed in an all white jumpsuit. When she was ready (clearly deflated that she couldn’t wear her new dress for the whole ceremony) they were taken to a room that looked like a hospital room except that it was intricately carved and painted like the rest of the castle.
On the far side of the room there were cabinets and a sink. In front of the cabinets there was a bed whose back was angled up like in a hospital and then next to it in the floor there was a shallow rectangular pool with little stairs leading into it.
On the opposite side of the room there was a wooden bench with white cushion that ran the length of the room. Leon and his family sat on the bench and were told to wait.
“Dude, you were right about the music,” whispered Aidan. “It’s like it follows you. It makes me think of a Medieval castle or something with trumpets announcing the king.”
“Trumpets?” Leon shook his head. “It’s different for everyone. Kali hears a violin.”
Aidan nodded with a surprised look on his face.
Leon sat back and felt the relaxing calm in the room. His soul seemed to find rest in the peaceful piano music that played in his ears. As his breathing slowed, he almost felt like he was meditating.
In short order Flynn walked into the room with several people behind him. He wore a white lab coat on top of his white clothes. Behind him were Micaela, her parents, and her older sister. The three women had colorful dresses that almost covered their white slippers and Mr. Sol wore a white shirt and tie like Father. They joined Leon’s family on the bench. Micaela’s older sister winked at Aidan as she sat, and Aidan blushed.
Leon nudged Aidan. Aidan nudged back. Leon nudged twice. Mother saw and gave them the look before turning back towards the group and smiling again.
This was the first time in several weeks that Leon and Aidan were back to their usual goofing around. It made Leon feel like part of the family again.
The last three people in the door were also wearing white lab coats. Two were female and one male. They varied in age from middle-aged to early twenties. The three of them smiled brightly.
Flynn addressed the group while his assistants prepared for the Immersion behind him. He smiled and spoke in a hushed, reverent tone.
“Kali, it’s so good to see you here today. I’m so glad your parents and brothers could come and that the Sol family is here to support you in this big decision. This may look a little scary, but I’m going to have Ryan explain everything to you.”
With that, Ryan walked forward and bent over to look at Kali with an exaggerated grin on his face.
“Okay, little girl. Your first big girl step is going to be onto this big bed over here.”
Kali stared at him dead pan.
Aidan whispered, “What? Is she a toddler now?”
Leon giggled silently.
“Then we are going to give you something that is going to tickle like a warm fuzzy all over your arms and little legs. After that you’re going to take a little dip in the pool like you’re going for a little bitty swim. You’re really going to like that part, I bet. Hop on up here.”
Kali climbed onto the table with marked excitement.
“Umm, yes, thank you, Ryan. Now as you get up on the bed, I’m going to explain why we do it like this and what will be happening to your body. Today is like you’re being born all over.
“The ability to have superpowers is actually a technology. The Dark Void wants us to think it’s a part of human nature, but we know better.
“This technology is really two technologies. First, is the genetic mutation. It’s administered at birth. Doctors don’t even tell people they do it anymore because it’s just part of the normal process. You spent a few hours in pain as a newborn, but you don’t remember that now, obviously.
“The second technology came when you were almost five or six. It was a shot that they gave you called an NBSI, nano bot safety injection, that actually injected you with tiny robots that swim through your blood stream. The robots supposedly help your immune system, but that was a lie. Instead, they store light energy from one of the nine colors that reaches your skin. By bonding with a special part of your blood cells that only exists because of the mutations, these tiny robots allow you to use that light energy.”
Though Flynn was much older, he was a steady and fluid speaker. Leon had planned to play games on his phone the whole time, but he found himself watching Flynn intently. The superpowers are technology!? I just always assumed it was something that passed from one generation to the next, something you’re born with.
“Either the tiny robots or the genetic alterations—we are not sure yet—effectively block your body’s ability to bond with the True Light and experience its full affect.
“So first, we are going to give you something that will return your cells back to normal. Besides the sting of the shot, you will feel tingly all over your body. This will be mildly painful, but I know you’re a strong girl, Kalina.
“The second part of the process happens in that pool there. When your cells return to normal, the tiny robots will detach from your blood cells and remove themselves from your body. Now, this part does hurt, but being in water soothes your skin as they make their way out of your pores.”
Leon shivered. That doesn’t sound very nice. Poor Kali.
“Once the robots detach themselves, your body will be able to experience the full glory of the True Light and you will feel it powerfully when you accept it in your heart. It will be a companion with you for the rest of your life. You will be guided by its power and it will comfort you.
“The water is also symbolic of a new life. You’ll be a brand new person after today, Kalina Torvell. No one is immersed until they have accepted the True Light in their hearts and committed to following Christ. So Immersion is really just an outward symbol of an inward commitment. We’re so happy for you today.”
He was now standing next to her bed. She turned her head to not see the needle that one of the assistants pushed into her arm. She cringed, but then relaxed. She had been prepared for pain, but now she was relieved. She giggled.
“It’s all tingly.”
Flynn excused himself to go to another Immersion but promised he would return before she was put in the water.
The Sol family stood up to follow him. Leon shot Micaela a puzzled look. Whispering, she explained that they were going to see Randall’s Immersion.
Several in the room shushed him. Micaela just smiled and followed her parents. Leon sat back, shocked.
Randall is being immersed? He told me that he was going to follow the True Light, but for some reason I didn’t connect that with him being immersed. This means he’s going to lose all his powers. And after he worked so hard to learn them all. I guess it’s for the better, though. If you’re not following the right path in life, it doesn’t matter what amazing powers you have.
Wait, this means that he couldn’t join the Junior Firebolts. That’s what he was trying to tell me all along. I’m such an idiot. He wasn’t stabbing me in the back. He was going to tell Kaz ‘no’ because he is giving up his powers. Oh, why didn’t I see this before? I’m such a horrible friend.
Leon slumped down into the bench.
“After the fight that sent you to the hospital, he started learning about the True Light from Micaela,” Mother whispered. She slid closer on the bench. “It was part of his punishment, but Micaela thought it would help both of you. Randall has really changed. You might want to go watch his Immersion as well.”
“No. I … I can’t.”
“It might be good for you,” said Mother.
“He might not want me there. I would ruin it.”
She shrugged and then walked over to Kali. She held Kali’s hand. Kali lay calmly with her eyes closed.
“Mom, it’s starting to hurt a little,” she said.
“I’m here for you. I’m very proud of you, Kali. You’re being an example to us all.”
Kali smiled with her eyes closed.
The piano music played loudly in Leon’s head despite his inner turmoil. Micaela’s words came back to him. Music has always been a sign that you are fulfilling your purpose, that you are on the right path. When you are a follower of the True Light, your body remains on the earth after you die. We have a ceremony and bury them in the ground because we know we’ll see them again someday.
Tears budded at Leon’s eyes, but he held them back.
Kali squeezed Mother’s hand tightly. The pain was intensifying. She grimaced, but didn’t squirm. Father stood next to her and held her shoulder and arm. Mother and Father looked at each other, worried.
Leon remembered Flynn’s words in the castle that first day. What powers does True Light have? Powers? No powers. Courage, Compassion, and a warm light for all the world to follow.
The song continued to throb in Leon’s heart. He turned to the side so that Aidan wouldn’t see his tears.
After what had to be an hour or two, the assistants came back into the room and Ryan declared the procedure done. One left to get Flynn and the others prepped Kali for the second part. They gave her juice and cookies. They explained that it was a huge strain on her body, even though she had only laid there. Her body had been exerting lots of energy on the cellular level.
When Flynn returned he explained that the other person being immersed that day had run into some complications with the procedure and that the Sol family was staying with him. Leon’s eyes widened. Randall is having complications. I wonder if I didn’t heal him enough. Maybe he’s too weak to go through with the Immersion. He’s going to hate me, if he makes it.
Ryan instructed Father to pick Kali up and place her gently in the shallow pool. Flynn explained that in just a few moments the robots would start detaching themselves from her blood cells and exiting her body. She needed to be in the pool before that started.
“I’m going to be free,” she said smiling weakly as she sat in the pool, holding onto Father’s arm.
Ryan put a scuba mask on her—or something that looked like one—and then let Father lay her down in the water.
The family gathered around the pool and leaned over to see Kali. After a few silent moments, the pain started. Kali’s eyes got large and she started cringing and squirming. Slowly small dots of blood began appearing on her white jumpsuit. Her face contorted in pain.
Leon wanted to jump in and pull her out. I can’t let her go through with this. I’ve got to stop her pain, but how? It’s too late now. What was she thinking? This is insane. His intentions must have been obvious, because Aidan’s arm snapped up to hold him back. Leon looked up and noticed Aidan was being held back in similar fashion by Father, and he in turn was held back by Mother. Aidan would have normally found this scene funny, but only fear shone on his face, no laughter.
Leon reached out to grab something and found Aidan’s hand. He squeezed. Aidan grabbed Father’s hand and Father held Mother’s. They waited breathlessly for the minutes to pass and for Kali to stop twitching and contorting herself.
The music drummed in Leon’s ears along with the sound of blood pulsing. Aidan let go of Leon’s hand to wipe away a tear. Leon just let them fall down his cheeks. How could someone so young and innocent as her, be such an example to a lost soul such as me? If she can do this and follow the True Light, so can I.
At Ryan’s command, Father dropped into the water and scooped his daughter out. Her whole jumpsuit dripped deep red. Father took no notice of the stains that his clothes would have. He grabbed her and held her tight. Mother joined the hug as soon as Father was out of the water and Leon and Aidan squeezed them all tightly.
AT HOME AFTER THE CEREMONY, Father laid Kali on her bed to rest. Leon had never seen her smile so much as on the way home. She kept saying how wonderful she felt and how hard it was to describe what she was feeling.
Leon believed her because he could feel it. Her change was like a lantern at midnight. He felt it in his heart. He heard the song so refined and moving that he didn’t have words.
He went to the deck out the kitchen door and sat himself down on the edge. He left his phone on the dining room table inside. He was preserving these incredible feelings, hoping that they wouldn’t go away by any accidental thought or movement. He breathed slowly and heavily.
I know that the song is guiding me to be immersed, to follow the True Light and to accept Christ. It’s the right thing to do. I can hear it. I can feel it. But that means giving up my powers. It means that I wouldn’t even be a lantern anymore. I’d be less than when I started.
And yet, somehow, so much more. It doesn’t even make sense how being powerless is more than what I have now, but I’d be fighting on the right side of this war, instead of a distracted bystander who doesn’t even know about the war.
I’d be fighting for what’s right.
I’m going to be immersed.
At that moment, a dark figure apparated in the middle of his backyard. Leon jumped. It was Kaz Warwick. Leon fell off the edge of the deck at the sight of him. Dusting himself off, he tried in vain to seem less foolish. Instead, he cowered before the man.
“Your friends and family are abandoning you, boy,” said Kaz. He didn’t look mad, just menacing.
“What? What do you mean?”
“They are leaving you to follow some monstrous cult. They want you to follow. They want to take your gifts from you. The one thing in life that you excel at, and they want to take it from you.”
Leon was not only frightened by Kaz, but he noticed that the incredible and peaceful feelings from Kali’s immersion had fled at the sight of Kaz. He tried to get them to come back. He listened hard for the piano, but it was not to be heard. It was like Kaz was blocking it, like his very presence silenced it.
“You’re different. What did you do?” Leon asked.
“Me? You are the one who has changed. Your powers grow weaker with every minute you spend with those fools. I can feel it. It is so faint. Come back to the Firebolts. We need you, boy. We’ll take you back and train you. We’ll make you strong again.”
Leon’s heart raced. He pictured himself training with the other Firebolts. He pictured himself making the winning goal. He pictured the crowds cheering his name. He could be a superstar. By training with the powers of the Dark Void he could be an amazing shadowball player and one of the most powerful men in the world.
“You hesitate? At an offer like that?” Kaz hissed. “What have they done to you, boy? You’re not seriously considering following them, are you?”
Leon was afraid to answer. He was terrified of telling Kaz that he had decided to be immersed. Because of Kaz’s powerful presence, he even began doubting his decision.
“Bah,” yelled Kaz. “Don’t you remember what you were before you found the dark power? Don’t you remember how you hated the pitiful lantern that you once were? You were an insignificant bug, and you won’t even be that if you follow them. But I give you the chance to be a god!”
As the last word rang in Leon’s ears, he felt a flood of dark energy being pushed into his body. It was like Kaz was trying to force it into Leon.
“I … I can tell the difference now,” Leon’s voice faltered. “I can see you for what you really are. The Dark Void has corrupted you and you are its pawn. I finally understand the real powers of the True Light. The power, the courage, to not be bullied by you.”
“Don’t you dare spurn me, boy.”
The dark energy pushed harder. It clawed it’s way into his skin and up his limbs. And then it seized his heart. Leon’s eyes shot wide open and his body convulsed. Kaz cackled with delight.
Leon frantically called out in his mind to the True Light. He really didn’t know if the True Light would or could save him. He wasn’t sure if he actually had the power to overcome the dark energy that gripped him so completely.
But he reached out with courage, listening for the song. He imagined its tune in his mind, trying to make it come to him.
His convulsing grew stronger and it dropped him to his knees. He fell over in the grass. He realized he had no control over his own body. He listened desperately for a single note, but his whole world was silent. He couldn’t hear Kaz’s evil laughter or the sounds of his body flailing on the ground. There was only silence.
And then it came. It started as a single note that reverberated for several seconds in his mind. No, it was deeper. It reverberated in his heart. As the note sounded, the Dark Void’s grip on Leon’s heart loosened.
That single note turned into two and then several and then Leon could hear the full song, every chord and beautiful melody. The Dark Void retreated with each and every note. The song more beautiful than he had ever heard it before. A whole army of pianos swelled the song and pushed back the Dark.
Not to be defeated, Kaz pushed the dark energy forcefully into Leon’s body. It shot pain up and down Leon’s spine. He cried out and his body contorted. The dark energy seized upon his heart again, pushing out the melody.
Leon’s mind stayed firm with the courage of True Light. The song crescendoed in a loud, beautiful melody that washed over Leon’s heart. The dark energy was forced to yield to the song. It retreated and didn’t stop at his heart. As the song swelled further, the dark energy slinked back to Leon’s limbs and then was expelled completely in a powerful finale.
Kaz stumbled backward.
Leon’s body stopped convulsing and the rest of the world was no longer silent. Breathing heavily, he heard Kaz muttering.
“That’s impossible. How could that boy do that to me?”
Leon stood slowly and faced Kaz. The courage of his song still rang in his heart.
“My name is Leon and I’m not afraid of you.”
He marched over to Kaz and floated off the ground enough to be eye to eye with him. He looked deep into his eyes, but only saw emptiness. Leon shook his head sorrowfully. What a pitiful old man.
“What are you going to do?” Kaz’s voice shook.
“I’m going to leave you to your pitiful self. I need to settle a score with my friend. I need some compassion.”
LEON APPARATED JUST OUTSIDE RANDALL’S front door. He was still shaken from his encounter with Kaz.
He hesitated before he knocked. Randall isn’t going to let me in. He’d be crazy if he did. He thinks I’ll just hurt him again.
The familiar and comforting melody of his piano music played in his ears.
But I’ve got to try. I need to tell him that I’m sorry, that I’m a terrible friend, and that I’ve changed. I need him to forgive me.
Randall’s mother came to the door and nearly slammed it in Leon’s face when she saw it was him. Leon could see her frightful eyes staring at him through the small crack that she had left open.
“Please, Mrs. Crespo. I need to talk to Randall.”
“After what you did? Don’t you get an inch closer to my son.”
Leon bowed his head. “I know. I’m a terrible friend. I’m a monster, really,” he said slowly. “Please, Mrs. Crespo. I need to say sorry.”
“Please go, Leon.”
What do I do? How can I convince her that I’ve changed? I’ve got to talk to Randall.
“Here. Take this.” Leon held out his phone to her.
“I know you don’t need that. You’re too powerful.”
“It’s a symbol, a promise. I’m giving it to you so that you know I won’t hurt your son.”
“Again,” she snapped.
“Right, again. I won’t hurt him again,” Leon conceded.
Leon pictured in his mind the refrigerator that crushed Randall. He remembered the lifeless body lying on the ground. He remembered how frantically he had tried to save his friend.
“M’am I’m so sorry. Is he still hurt?”
“I’m better than I’ve ever been,” said Randall’s voice from behind the door. He didn’t sound better. He sounded raspy and weak.
Leon looked up and saw Randall’s hand grip the door above the handle. There was some whispering between him and his mother, but eventually, he pulled open the door and greeted Leon with a smile.
“Can I come in?”
Randall stepped aside and let Leon enter. Mrs. Crespo didn’t leave Randall’s side. Randall looked different. His breathing looked forced and almost painful, but he looked happy. He looked like there was something different in his eyes. And suddenly it made sense.
Micaela always felt different. He never knew what it was, but seeing Randall and Kali after their immersions made Leon understand. Randall was a different creature, reborn. It was Light, True Light. Their bodies were filled with it and it was something that could be felt by people around them. It was the warm light for all to follow that Flynn had taught Leon about.
“Randall, you sound terrible. Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m getting there. I’ll heal. I deserve it for what I did to you, I guess.”
“Don’t say that. I shouldn’t have done that to you. I’m so sorry,” said Leon.
“You wanted power. You thought I betrayed you. You wanted to beat me. You did. You won. Have you done the same to Tommy and all those kids? I know you could now.”
“No. I’ve changed. You probably won’t believe me, but I’m trying to follow the song that I hear now. I want to follow the True Light.”
Mrs. Crespo scoffed. Randall just shook his head slowly.
“It’s true,” Leon persisted. “I don’t want power anymore. The only power I need is what you have for me. You can help me, Randall. You tried once before, but this time I won’t fight back.”
“Power that I have? Don’t you know that I got immersed? I don’t have powers anymore. I can’t help you.”
“You can’t or you won’t?”
“What do you mean, Leon?”
Leon looked at Mrs. Crespo and then at Randall. He slowly kneeled down and then looked up at them again, this time with tears in his eyes.
“I was a terrible friend to you, Randall, and I am so sorry. You say that you have no power to help me, but you are wrong. You can have compassion on me. You can forgive me so that I can be healed.”
There was a long silence. Leon stared up at Randall. Mrs. Crespo stared at Randall.
“Can you find it in your heart to forgive a loser like me?”
A smile finally broke on Randall’s face. He grabbed Leon by the arm, pulled him to his feet, and hugged him tightly. He pulled away with his hands on Leon’s scrawny shoulders.
“Of course I forgive you. You’re my best friend. Could you ever forgive me for going with Tommy instead of staying by your side?”
Leon smiled. “I already have, Randall. Mrs. Crespo, your son is as big hearted as The Avalon. And just as brave. He’s a good kid.”
She smiled and nodded and then gave Leon a big hug. Whoa, didn’t expect that.
“You are too, Leon. It just took you a while to realize who you are.”
I guess she’s right. I do know who I am now. And I don’t need superpowers to do what’s right.
“So will you come to my immersion?”
Randall chuckled. “You’re going to have to talk to Flynn about that first, don’t you think?”
“I guess I do. Randall …” Leon hesitated, “were the complications you had during your immersion because of what I did to you?”
Randall gave an introspective half smile. He paused to think before saying, “Nope. It turns out that when you’re as far into the Dark Void as I was, it is a very painful process to come back.”
Leon shivered. “Imagine how hard it’s going to be for me to come back.”
“I’ll be there with you, buddy.” Randall laid a hand on Leon’s shoulder and smiled broadly.
“I should have been there with you. I’m sorry.” Leon shook his head. He looked down at his phone and noticed the time. I wonder if Flynn is still at the castle. If I hurry, maybe I can catch him. “Sorry, Randall. I’ve got to go.”
Leon quickly opened the door and started floating into the air, forward and upward.
“You’ll have to give up flying,” Randall called out.
“It will be worth it,” Leon called back with a smile.
A Warm Light to
AS LEON FLOATED INTO THE sky, he tried to think about what he was going to say to Flynn. How did Kali or Randall ask to be immersed?
“Mr. Flynn, I’m ready to be immersed. When are you available?” No, that won’t—
Leon realized that he was no longer climbing higher. What’s going on?
Leon did something he wasn’t used to doing. He felt inside to check his energy reserves. His red energy was gone!
He started to call out to the dark energy in his mind, but he stopped himself. Oh no, I can’t use the Dark Void anymore. That means I can’t fly. That means I’m going to crash. Quickly remembering Randall’s trick of teleporting mid-air, Leon apparated near the ground before he had time to gather much downward momentum. He landed hard on the grass in front of Randall’s house.
“What happened?” Randall asked. Leon obviously hadn’t made it very far and Randall had still been watching him go.
Leon picked himself off the ground. He felt a little rattled, but nothing injured.
“I guess I can’t use any of my powers except for the colored light energy that I absorb now. I’m surprised I’m not back to being a plain old lantern.”
“You’re lucky you even made it to my house,” Randall laughed.
“Leon, if you still want to go to the castle, I can drive you,” said Mrs. Crespo.
“You would do that?”
“I’m coming to,” said Randall.
“No, honey, you should rest. It’s been a long day for you.”
“I need to be there for my friend, Mom.”
She nodded and they piled into her car, Randall more slowly than usual. On the way there, Leon told Randall about his battle with the Dark Void and Kaz Warwick. Then they moved on to talking about the Disciple of Light book and how Cade became The Avalon.
When they arrived at the white castle, Leon ran to the large front doors, but they were locked.
Leon called back to Randall, still in the car, “The castle’s closed.”
“That’s weird. The drawbridge was open,” Randall called back.
“Very funny,” said Leon.
“Leon?” said a voice.
Leon spun toward the sound of the voice.
“So you’re the reason I stayed.” It was Flynn. He came strolling around the side of the castle. “I was about to leave after I locked up, but I felt that I should stay here a little longer. So I walked around the garden out here for a while. I didn’t expect that I stayed for you.”
Leon smiled. “But I am very glad that you did.”
“What brings you here this late?”
“I came as fast as I could. I need something from you.”
“I want to be immersed. I want to follow the True Light.”
Flynn looked surprised. He stared into Leon’s eyes, but Leon didn’t look away. He felt changed, different. He wasn’t changed as much as Randall was, but he felt different inside. He was always listening for the song.
Flynn nodded. “Yes.”
“The True Light has penetrated deep into my heart and my soul. I can feel it. Courage. Compassion. And now I want—”
“To be a warm light for all mankind to follow. I see.”
“Well, I don’t know if I can be a light to all of mankind, but at least to my friends and family. Like Randall and Kali.”
Flynn nodded, rubbing his chin. He no longer wore the white suit that Leon had always seen him wear. Instead, he was in a brown, felt suit with a white shirt and white tie underneath.
“They are good examples to you. Very wise for their age, and courageous.” Flynn looked into Leon’s eyes and smiled. “Keep following them, and soon you’ll be ready to take the steps they have.”
“Is that a yes?”
“You have a hard struggle ahead of you, but if you are persistent, you can be free of the Dark Void just as Randall is. Make no mistake. It will be painful for you.”
Leon nodded. “I know how painful it will be. Or at least, I felt it a little bit. Kaz Warwick tried to force me to follow him. I felt like it was going to destroy me.”
Flynn rubbed his chin again. “Did you know that my last name is Warwick? Flynn Warwick. Kaz and I are brothers.”
Leon’s mouth dropped open and his arms flopped down at his side. “What?”
Flynn smiled. “I know. It’s hard to believe. We are very different, but very similar in some ways.”
Leon’s mouth still gaped open. “You’re for real his brother?”
Flynn nodded. “Oh yes. We’ve chosen very different paths.” Flynn paused. “Leon, let’s sit down and talk about your Immersion sometime when it’s not so late. I’m sorry, but I’m tired.”
“Yes, right, sir. Okay. I will come by and we’ll talk.”
Flynn nodded. “And in the meantime, make sure to read the other books.”
Leon promised he would read the book and hopped back into Mrs. Crespo’s car. On the way home to Bethel, Leon rolled down his window. He stuck his hand out the window and felt the wind on his fingers and through his hair. It made him think of flying.
I can’t fly anymore. I haven’t had that power for very long, but it’s going to take a while to get used to not having it. I’m not going to have any power pretty soon. I’ll be less than a flashlight to Tommy. I never got to play shadowball after all. And now I never will.
Above the sound of the wind rushing by, he noticed a sound. It started soft, but the more he listened, the louder it became. It was his piano melody. It was now loud and full and powerful. It sung peace to his heart and wrote a smile on his lips.
It was a magical evening. Stars, a beautiful song, and the knowledge that for the first time in his life, Leon was sure that he was doing the right thing. He was following the right path. He had found what he had always been searching for. He didn’t know exactly how he could be so sure of it, but he heard it.
Turning the corner to his house, he saw flashing police lights.
His heart stopped. He jumped out of the car as soon as it stopped and sprinted to the doorstep. An officer tried to stop him, but Mother called from the open door so loudly that the officer immediately stepped aside and let him pass. Mother rushed at him and almost knocked him down trying to hug him. Father was next and when he finally broke free of their embraces, he saw Aidan and Kali smiling at him with relieved expressions.
“Where were you?”
“Are you all right?”
“I’m fine. Nothing happened to me. I was with Randall. I can’t fly anymore.”
“We got so worried. Kaz Warwick was in the back yard. He said you were his again. He was going to take you back. Your father kicked him out, but he threatened us. We were so worried for you.”
“I’m okay, Mom. He didn’t hurt me. He’s never going to bother me again.”
Mother and Father exhaled in relief. The police officers saw that they weren’t needed and so they excused themselves. One walked out the door while the other teleported away. Soon enough the flashing lights that pierced their windows were gone, Randall and Mrs. Crespo left, and peace seemed to settle in their home.
“You kicked out Kaz Warwick, Dad?” Leon asked.
“You betcha, son.” He beamed with pride and ruffled Leon’s hair. “I told you that one day I’d give him a piece of my mind, didn’t I?”
They were all sitting in the living room, all smiling, all crammed onto the couch.
“This is the first time in a while that we’ve done this,” Kali noted.
“You’re right, Kali. It feels good,” said Mother.
“I like it,” smiled Leon.
“What do you mean you can’t fly anymore, Leon?” asked Aidan.
“Well, I can’t use dark energy anymore. I’m basically powerless.”
“You’re a loser again?”
“You don’t seem too sad about that, son,” said Father.
“I’m not. For the first time ever.”
“Now the fun begins,” said Aidan. He rubbed his hands together with glee. “I’m going to make fun of you every day … for the rest of your life.”
Leon laughed. His family laughed.
“Guys, listen. I’ve got something important to say. Okay first of all, I need to say I’m sorry to you all. I was heading down a wrong path, but now I’m going to start doing the right thing. No more dark energy, no more powers. I’m giving them up and following Kali’s example. I’m going to be immersed.”
Mother leaned over Kali and Father to give him a hug and a big kiss.
“You know, son, I don’t think we’re going to let you be immersed,” said Father.
“What?” Leon’s voice was muffled under Mother’s embrace. Everyone looked at Father in surprise.
Father smiled and continued, “… alone. We’re not going to let you do that alone.”
“Not funny, Dad.”
“I think it’s something we all need to do, together.”
“You mean it, Dad?” Kali asked, hugging Father. “You want to follow the True Light, too?”
“Well, your mother and I have been talking about it. We’ve seen the good it’s doing to you two. You know, you’re going to think I’m crazy, but every time we think about it, it’s like there’s this banjo playing some strange song in my ear.”
Kali and Leon shared a look.
“It makes me feel good whenever I hear it, and I want to follow it with all my heart.”
Thanks for reading!
Please review it on Amazon
To find out about future stories follow me at
To follow my exploration of the creative process and how you can become more creative
throughout your life, follow me at
C. Louis S.
A family man, Christian, inventor, and writer, I served for two years as a missionary in Chile. My day job is a software engineer. At home I’m a husband and father of four in Utah, and in my free time I’m a writer.
I also like martial arts and meditation as a way to understand oneself. My debut novel, Son of Shadow Hero of Light, was written for the teenagers I served as a youth leader but has been a spiritual journey for me as well.
Courage. Compassion. A warm light for all to follow. In a world where playing games on cell phones give people superpowers like flying or teleporting, twelve-year-old Leon can shine light from his hands which is the least useful superpower of the nine. But when he discovers his real ability, he turns his world upside down chasing more and more power. Not only is that devastating for his family, but he also destroys his friendship with his best friend, and then discovers that his real ability is tricking him into following a sinister power. He’ll have to give up everything that made him popular in order to do what’s right.