Blink: Chapter 1:
The first ring of the bell jars me fully awake. So much for trying to make up for sleeping only four hours last night. I try to remember the room number for my class. At the same time, I’m failing at not thinking about how last night was another errand from Wally. Wally likes to think himself the leader of our trio. What he calls “reconnaissance,” I call, “making sure Valeria and I don’t get any sleep.”
I regret helping out last night. An errand unrelated to how I, up to a year ago, was trapped in a research facility being tested. I have no memory of life before that.
I look to the girl sitting to the left of me in Mrs. Enfield’s English class. The only drama she probably has in the morning was where her brother hid the hair straightener. Her name is Ashley, she’s blonde, milky-skinned girl, always on the honor roll, perfect attendance, and has on multiple occasions invited me to the after-school Bible study. I’m running out of illnesses common to North America that keep me from attending.
Before I come up with a reason to not show up for the Bible study this week, someone opens the door to the class room. I can’t see who with the door in the way, but Mrs. Enfield perches up her glasses and looks to the back row at me.
“Miss Gonzalez? Helena, could you step into the hall for a moment please?”
I stumble out of my chair and onto the ground. There is a list of things Wally repeatedly tells me to do so I would avoid suspicion of being anything other than normal, and it’s running through my head as I pull myself off the floor. Don’t freak out if they call you to the office, he would say.
So is this the walk of shame? I hear other kids here use the phrase. I feel like I should know what it means at fifteen. Already this year a sixth grader introduced me to the PEN 15 club and that was embarrassing enough.
Mr. Griggs, the guidance counselor, is waiting in the hall for me. He’s short and has an early beard growing at all times. It being a spirit day, he is wearing a Hawaiian shirt. The Hawaiians have never been brought so low. When I think of Mr. Griggs, the words “sun” and “relaxation” never enter my mind.
We pass The Three B’s while in the hall that leads to Mr. Griggs office: Bridget, Bethany, and Bunny. No, I didn’t name them the Three B’s. Someone else beat me to it. I don’t get how they can take pride in that nickname. But they do. Just like they take pride in giving me a judgmental stare as they walk past me in the hall.
That’s funny. I hear not a word from Mr. Griggs, who should scold them for being in the hallway during class hours.
He requests I take a seat in front of his desk. The smiley face wallpaper and positive sayings on posters with contemplative photography bombard my eyes. I sit down after the shock and awe wears campaign has taken its toll.
“Helena, normally I wouldn’t be having this conversation with just you, but given your circumstances,” I love how early he hits on the fact I don’t have any parents. Any parents I can remember, anyway.
“I do have a sister.”
“Hey, I’m here to help, to listen, and be a friend to you. I’m not judging you for how you feel about your body or your weight.”
“The fact is, when I told your sister, Valeria correct? When I told her some of your friends were worried about you she told me to-”
“Not language appropriate for school, but yes that’s close to the vernacular she used.” He folds his arms and leans back into his chair.
I try to hide the smile, but I put my hand down from my mouth.
“Joking aside, this is serious, Helena. I’ve talked to the cafeteria staff. You eat two full lunches here at school on a regular basis. But here in front of me is a girl who can only be 90 pounds soaking wet. So that tells me you’re either not getting enough to eat at home or both you and your sister are in denial about you having an eating disorder.”
“Oh, this isn’t happening.” My hands are back to covering my face. I rub my temples and look up. Mr. Griggs is still in front of me. And I’m still in his office.
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of Helena, lots of young women struggle with this. But it’s not a problem we should ignore.”
I want to laugh at the irony. I do have a problem. Just not the one he thinks. My body can move five times faster than a normal person, or norm as I call them. There is a wonderful downside to that gift. If I burn up too much energy, my metabolism will eat me alive.
I tell Mr. Griggs that my sister and I just have issues when it comes to making dinner. She does work late grading papers as a teaching assistant for her graduate program. It’s a lie that has some merit. I bolt for the door,giving many apologies. The frown on his face is not encouraging. Ugh, being the new kid last spring gave me enough problems.
Speaking of problems where does Mr. Lucas keep the dissection frogs? A dozen or so for the lockers of The Three B’s should make us even.
How could they tell Mr. Griggs I have an eating disorder?! Okay, so I eat a lot and, at times, I could probably model for one of those ab-crunching machines advertised at 3AM. It’s not like they see me tossing cookies before next period. They had no right! Lying like that violates some girl code of ethics, right? Like dating your best friend’s ex?
I look for a clock on the wall to tell me which class I am avoiding right now, walking as slowly as possible to my locker. My next period was algebra. It’s tempting to bolt back home and call it a day. It really can’t get much worse. Flipping through the combination, I realized even my locker doesn’t want to obey me. Finally, it opens and I swing it open wildly. Grabbing my math book, I head for the stairwell, hoping I missed the pop quiz.
The entire building shudders in an explosion. It feels like it happened over by the gym. Fire alarms sound off. Doors immediately open from every classroom. Teachers are barking orders, trying to keep everyone organized while I rush back downstairs.
Standing in front of the Principal’s office, I saw there’s already a mob mad-dashing it to the front exit. Standing like a rock in the middle of a river flow is a tall man with what looked like a hump on his back and long black hair, except the forehead and top where he’s balding. His long black coat is pulled and tripped upon by fleeing kids. Flames were painted on, licking the bottom of his coat.
A second wave of kids are coming at him when he suddenly moves. Almost robotic, he reaches out and plucked someone from the crowd by the neck. All I notice is long, red hair everything else is obscured by the coat. He dragged her down the side hall leading to the cafeteria.
“What happened?” The principal asks a janitor behind me.
“The boiler, it just erupted in flames!”
“The fire department should be here in two minutes, come along young lady,” she pulled at my button-down shirt. Both of them are heading for the front entrance. She lets go once we start walking. I lose them both in the sea of panicked people and head after Mr. Creepy.
They’re just about to leave through an emergency exit in the cafeteria. It’s already been set up for my favorite hour of the day.
“Hey!” I yelled out. He turns around. Okay, I could have been more intimidating, I think, as he turned around. As if the day couldn’t get any better I hear Bridget screaming for her release. Part of me just wants to leave Bridget to her Gothic fate.
“Stay out of my way,” he shouts back, glinting a set of sunflower-yellow teeth.
Before he realized what happened, I run up and separate his hand from Bridget’s hair. I’m not so fast that he can’t see me, but I top out around 200mph, too fast to react to if you aren’t ready for it. Thankfully, he wasn’t.
I start wheeling us to the door when a fireball explodes a set of chairs and tables right in the way of my exit.
“Sorry about this,” I say to Bridget as I push her behind the salad bar. “Just stay there.”
“Helena? What are you doing?” she said. She coughs up a lungful of smoke and grabs the tray holder for support.
“Yeah, I am not thrilled about this either. Stay out of sight. Oh, by the way, thanks for telling the guidance counselor about the eating disorder I don’t have.”
I turn to face my fire-wielding foe when I see he has a clear plastic tubes in his nostrils that weren’t there when I stole away Bridget. Is he like me, I wondered? Does he have a power and price to pay for it?
Already, he’s warming up another ball of warm goodness. He launches it to where I was standing half a second ago. Flicking his fingers against the wrist of his jacket, another spark ignites. Hidden behind another collection of chairs and a table, I start taunting him.
“Nice trick, do you do birthdays? I’m thinking my next one will have a luau theme….” I ask, half coughing it out. Smoke is stampeding like bulls on the ceiling. I need to end this quick or I’m going to run out of air…
-Wait. Air! Oh chemistry book, you’re not useless after all! His nose is getting air because he’s sucking up the nearby oxygen to make his fireballs. He’s not invulnerable to the smoke. Speaking of which, I dodge another one as I figure out his possible weakness and it splinters the table, sending charred pieces in all directions.
I run to the server-side of the cafeteria, wet two towels while the hothead is dousing the area in more fireballs and calling Bridget to come out or he’ll roast her. The charmer! The first towel goes around my face and the second I wrap around my right hand.
His chest heaved, I coughed. Hearing me, he threw another blast in the direction of my approach. Lunging to the left and slightly down, I dig my feet in and propel myself forward. His arm came up for another ball just as I reach my fist to connect and-
The blast knocked me back into a collection of chairs. Ears were ringing and my vision needs 3D glasses. I ordered my feet to get up. They don’t obey.
C’mon, we’re not dying at the hands of a guy named Tinderbox feet. Getup, getup. A hot, orange flare erupts towards me. I roll out of the way and keep the forward momentum. The dark hazy figure is before me is drawing his arm back like a bowstring for another attack.
Last chance, be faster. I force my legs to move faster than last time. There’s no thought except, hit him. Hit him till he’s out cold and can’t hurt you. One step left and the knuckles connect with bottom of his jawbone. He crashes head first into the glass window behind him. A quarter of his head is now outside.
The next hit knocked him to his knees. What did Valeria call it, the diaphragm? I dunno what it means, but if he needs air, he needs it working right and I hit it so hard he’s gasping for breath on his knees. The sprinklers have soaked the carpet, the smoke is at least a foot thick on the ceiling.
Bridget coughs and my head is pulled out of the fight. She’s near where I left her, except the salad bar is now engulfed in flames. Not that I minded, I hate salads.
“Lets get out of here,” I said.
“There’s too much fire at the exit,” Bridget points. She’s right, our way out through the school is engulfed in fire. I pushed the wet hair away from my eyes and help Bridget up to her feet.
The minute I do, my stomach takes it’s vengeance upon me. Remember how I said my body can only be pushed so far before it starts eating me alive?
“Ah! Argh,” I grabbed my stomach with my left hand, gritted my teeth and pulled Bridget towards the back exit.
“Wait, the guy with the fire was that way!” Bridget protested.
I look to the emergency exit at the rear of the cafeteria. No Tinderbox on the ground.
I fall to my knees, coughing and fighting my own stomach’s revolution against the rest of me. Bridget lets go of my hand as a part of the ceiling collapses to our right. The sprinklers have stopped working.
Bridget looked down at me, then she glanced to the door. She pulls my arm over her shoulders, but I’m too much weight. Dragging gets us about a foot before I start screaming out. Bridget is suddenly afraid to move me, not sure how I’m hurt.
“I’ll be right back,” oh no! She’s leaving me! The room started spinning and all I could hear was the roaring of the fire as my world went black.
Authors note: This is the first draft to ch 1 of a superhero story I am writing. I’m looking for feedback so if you have any ideas of where things might need improving, please let me know. Also I’m turning off “likes” because what I’d like is feedback.