Chapter1: Fresh Start
Maybee is a dull town, I thought as I got out of my father's jeep and walked up the sidewalk to our new house. It was mid-august, and we had just moved, again. The ninth move in two years. I looked up at the house, an ugly two story yellow thing that very closely resembled a large box, and sighed.
"Maybe it won't be so bad" Dad said, clapping me on the back. "Maybe we'll get to stay here."
"Maybe I don't want to stay here." I mumbled in a voice so low only my brother, Tommy, could hear me. He chuckled softly in reply.
Up till now we had lived mostly in large cities; Phoenix, New York, San Francisco, Boston even. We figured it was easier to remain anonymous in a city where nobody knew nor cared about you, then in a small town of less than a thousand people. In a small town gossip flew, in a small town people would notice weird behavior. In a small town new comers were carefully watched. We knew it was going to be hard, but we also knew we had to try something different. My Dad thought that living in such a small place would be an incentive for my brother and me to behave ourselves.
You see, I was born into a family of gifted people, and when I say ‘gifted' I don't mean we're exceptionally bright or anything like that. We're more of what you would regard as freaks of nature really. We; my father, brother, and I posses abilities far beyond what any normal human being can do. My father can shoot electricity out of his hands, and my brother can hear even the softest sounds over great distances and me- well I'm different, even by our standards. I'm what they call a Leech. I wasn't born with any innate abilities except that I absorb the abilities of those around me. I need only to touch another of my kind, one finger is all it takes, and whatever abilities he has I will have. I don't steal powers, I just copy them.
So far I have copied three abilities, all of them on accident because I have no idea how my power works. I have my brothers hearing, my father's lightening, and also I can read minds. We're not really sure where this one came from. One day when I was about twelve I started hearing voices. I thought they were just people talking so I ignored most of them, eventually I started answering the thoughts of my family and we realized that I'd come into contact with someone somewhere who read minds. I just wish I knew who it was. I've never actually met anyone like us, though they have to be out there.
I trudged up to the house carrying the last box of our stuff. We had spent most of the day unpacking, lucky we didn't take much with us. Just the essentials, just the things we needed to make us look normal. We had even rented a small UHAUL for the benefit of our new neighbors because a normal family of three couldn't fit all of their belongings into the back of a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Not likely anyway.
I tried to look nonchalant as a group of people walked down the sidewalk past the house. I didn't need to see them to know they were coming. With Tommy's ability I could hear them coming six streets over, every step they took sounded like a herd of elephants marching down the street. And I didn't need to see them to know how many there were. Three separate, distinct voices filled my head; two female and one male, a little boy, probably the younger brother of one of the girls.
That must be the new family, one of girls thought. She sounded a bit stuck up.
Oooh, the one by the Jeep is cute, female thought number two said. I rolled my eyes. If Tommy could read minds we'd have had to repack right then and there.
I didn't get much from the third in the group, the little boy. I saw a few images, an ice cream shop, some crayons, and a tall blonde girl holding his hand and leading him down the street while a shorter blonde walked with them. I vaguely wondered which one thought Tommy was cute.
The group passed by and Tommy came running up.
"What'd they think about me?" he asked. I rolled my eyes again. He was impossible.
"They didn't like your hair." His face fell as his hand immediately went to his hair.
How could they not like the hair? Everyone likes the hair, I shrugged and walked up the porch and into the house.
The house, I could tell, was old but normal enough. Dark wood paneling made the small hall seem even more cramped than it actually was. Directly across from the door was a steep, narrow staircase that led to the upper floor where our bedrooms were. To my right was the smallish living room with bare and gloomy off-white walls, scuffed and dented from years of abuse. Large windows set into one wall, the one facing the road, let in sunlight and it bounced off the light fixtures in a pleasant way.
Straight through the living rooms large arched doorway was a dining room made up of the same off-white walls and dark scratched hardwood floors as the rest of the house. To the left of the dining room, or straight through from the front door was the kitchen and mudroom, the only room in the house that had somehow been spared the ugly off-white, the kitchen had been painted an even uglier shade of yellow.
I set my box down on the stairs and went to the kitchen where Dad was making sandwiches. He handed me a turkey club and a bag of chips and hauled himself up to sit on the counter.
"Can you toast it?" He took the sandwich and held it in between his hands for a second. When he handed it back it was crispy and brown.
"Sorry, I think I went a little over bored" he said, eyeing the black spots. I shrugged, I liked it that way. "You know, I don't think this towns going to be that bad."
"It's so small." Maybee was home to just under five hundred and thirty people.
"Like I said back in Boston, I think a small town will be good. It'll give your brother a reason to act normal."
"Someone's going to realize what we are."
"Tyler, if we're careful no one will suspect a thing, and even if they do, what's the worst that can happen?"
"Angry mob." I grunted between mouthfuls
"No one's going to chase us down with torches and pitchforks. Besides between you and Tommy there's no way they would get away with it." I shrugged again. Dad jumped down off the counter and came to face me, one hand resting on my shoulder. "Give this place a chance Ty. Go to school tomorrow, meet new people, but be careful" I knew what he meant by careful. Even though I'd had my Dad's ability for a while now I still hadn't quite got the hang of it. It had taken Dad the better part of his life to perfect his power, and that was with the natural instincts he already had about how to use it. As a Leech I copy abilities, not the instructions that come with them.
I can't touch anyone. Every time I do I let off a little zap of static electricity. It's not enough to hurt anyone; but still, you'd notice if every time you touched me you got shocked. It brings to much attention to us.
"So what do you say Ty?"
"I'll give it a chance, but if I don't like it your homeschooling me."
He smiled in return "Go upstairs and help your brother with the last of those boxes."
It was still dark the next morning while Tommy and I were walking to school.
Did those girls yesterday mention school at all?
"No" I mumbled in a tone so low my lips barely moved and there was no way anyone but Tommy could have heard me.
What if they don't go to the same school as us?
"This town's too small to have more than one school Tommy. Besides we'd be better off if they didn't, two less people to try and fool."
Yea. He thought in a non-committal way, it was a tone that almost always meant trouble.
Tommy left me before we got up to the front doors of the school. I walked into the old building and immediately felt dizzy from the double bombardment of noise and thoughts. Sometimes I thought Tommy was lucky. He never got overwhelmed in public situations. Me on the other hand...It happened more often than I would like to admit. I took a second to get used to the sudden change. I let the thoughts filter into the background until they became a low hum of barely audible noise. As for the shouting (or at least it sounded like shouting to me) there wasn't much I could do about that. After I had adjusted I started picking through the thoughts of those around me. Looking for anyone with information on where the office was.
Oh, it's that new kid Britney was talking about. She said they were good looking... one voice said. I quickly pushed that one aside and concentrated on another.
Dude looks lost. Ha, another voice said. I guessed that voice belonged to the dark haired boy wearing a backwards hat and aviators who was staring at me from across the hall.
That must be the other Roberts boy. I should see if he needs help. This was the type of thought I was looking for. I tried to guess which of the small crowd surrounding me this voice belonged to. My best guess was a short blonde girl standing not five feet away.
"Excuse me?" I said as I made my way over to her. She turned towards me and I noticed immediately how striking she was. Pretty, but in a way that might go unnoticed. She had soft eyes and a very pale face. Her hair, which at a glance looked lightly red, was actually blonde. And when you looked really close you could see hundreds and hundreds of randomly placed metallic red strands.
I walked the short distance between us; she looked up at me expectantly.
"Hi, um- today's my first day and I was hoping you could point me in the direction of the office."
I knew the second she spoke that I had got the wrong girl. That I hadn't matched thought with person even remotely accurately. The voice in my head had been deeper, borderline masculine in comparison. Looking back I'm not even sure why I would have matched that voice to this girl in the first place. After hearing the girls soft wind chime voice, to think of her with a deep tone seems an injustice.
She smiled warmly at my question.
"I was just heading there myself. I'll walk you." She didn't say much on our way to the office. I took the opportunity to study her further. I noticed the way in which she dressed: warm colors; blue jeans, a brown shirt, and faded red converse sneakers. She seemed to dress in a way that would make her fit in. She blended perfectly with the kids around her. Her shoes were the only thing that stood out.
When she did talk it was to ask simple non-committal questions about myself. Where had I lived before here? How was I finding this small town? What was my brother's name? Of course she had already heard all about Tommy.
I wondered vaguely what she thought about us, so I started sifting through the low hum of background voices, searching out the voice of the girl walking beside me.
Is that the new kid walking with Claire? One voice said. I imagined it belonged to the brunette who was standing at her locker eyeing us curiously.
Way to go Claire! Another female voice said.
Where were this girl's thoughts? She was standing right next to me, I had already heard her voice, and it should have been easy for me to pick her out of the crowd. She had such a distinctive voice.
"Here's the office." She trilled before disappearing behind the large door. I did not go in. Instead I stood outside sifting through my own thoughts while still trying, in vain, to find hers.
"Hello Claire, how can I help you?" I heard through the door.
"Oh, I just need my locker combination." it sounded like an excuse. There was the sound of typing, and then of paper being printed off.
"Here you go, honey. Have a good day!" Obviously the staff liked Claire.
"Thank-you Mrs. Fellner." Claire came bouncing out the office a moment later holding the folded piece of paper in her hand.
"Aren't you going in?"
"Oh, yea." I mumbled, as I shuffled through the door.
I came out twenty minutes later, class schedule and locker combination in hand, half expecting Claire to be there waiting for me. I shouldn't have kept my hopes up. I had the hardest time concentrating all day. All I could think of was Claire and the mystery that surrounded her. Why couldn't I hear her thoughts? What made her so special? When you can read minds it's not often that you get curious about a person. But Claire made me curious, dangerously curious.
Chapter 2: Faded Converse
Our first few days in town went off without a hitch. Tommy and I were approached by tons of people who really wanted nothing more than to welcome us to their little shithole town, and Tommy and I tried very hard to act like we appreciated the gesture, it's just that we've lived so long bouncing from place to place, never making any ties in any of the cities we've lived in that it's a little hard to not be rude and distant. I'm sure we offended a fair percentage of the population, but when you're like us, it's dangerous to make friends.
The thing is, Maybee is a boring place. The entire town consists of one street, and honestly about the only interesting thing anyone can think of to do is head down to the old quarry off of Old Mill Rd. You can't swim in it, its freezing cold and way too deep. There isn't even a beach, just a sheer drop into icy cold black water. Theoretically you could fish but no one ever catches anything because the only thing that lives in the quarry is catfish and they mostly stay at the bottom. Basically kids from town just go and hang out by the water. It's sort of like a party spot.
Nope, definitely not my scene. Mostly I spent my time wandering around town.
Mostly I spent my time thinking about Claire.
I hadn't talked to her since my first day, though I had seen her around a lot and I'm ashamed to admit that I had sort of been keeping an eye on her by reading the minds of those around her. The school was small enough that I could keep track of everyone in the entire place no matter where they were on campus. Doing this I was able to watch her in every class, during lunch, and also on most of her walk to and from school. I don't want to call it stalking, and maybe I was taking things a little too far, but no one had ever interested me more than she did, and I kept telling myself it was only until I knew why she was different.
Even with Claire as a distraction, school was still not a fun time for me. I hated my classes, I hated my teachers, I hated how I had to listen to the snide comments they would make about me, both behind my back and in the privacy of their own heads, I hated how I had to take it all, I hated not being able to say anything to anyone. But I couldn't afford to lose my temper. I couldn't afford to let the electricity flow.
"You are a worthless piece of shit!" Tommy yelled at me one evening
"Language please, Tommy." Dad said calmly, "Now Tyler, don't give in, I can see you want to let the electricity out, keep it in check." Dad paced the basement floor; hands clasped behind his back, watching the expression on my face grow angrier and angrier. This was a common scene in our house. It always had been, ever since I gained my father's ability. We would meet in the basement and Tommy would delightfully shout insults at me until I lost my temper, then I would try to hold my powers back. I don't think Tommy realized how close to death he so often was, but Dad was always there to siphon off the worst of it. The worst Tommy ever got was about the same as if you had stuck your finger in a socket. It hurt like hell but it probably wouldn't kill you. "Keep in mind, Tyler that this ability is different from you're others. Here you are manipulating something physical; you're controlling the elements so to speak. Your other abilities are more mental in nature. You're constantly using and therefore practicing them, even if you don't realize it. It's important to put a conscious effort into using your electricity because that's the only way you're going to get any practice. It's the only way you are going to remain safe."
"Oooh, my name's Tyler, and I can't control my powers..." Tommy said in high pitched imitation of a girl's voice.
I strained to keep my abilities in. I could feel it rising, building, gaining strength and power. It swam inside me, picking at the edges of the mental barrier that was holding it back. I hated it when Tommy did that girl voice; it was the only sure way to piss me off. I could feel my face turning red. I clenched my fists, trying very hard to hold it in.
"Tommy, go upstairs." Dad said wisely. Tommy bolted from the room, slamming the basement door shut behind him. "Tyler, calm down. You know he was trying to make you angry. We've been doing this for years now and he always resorts to that voice, deep breaths now." Dad said. I took a few deep, shaking breaths and when I had calmed considerably I unclenched my fists. Dad walked to the far side of the room and placed some pop cans in a row on the table. "Okay, I think it's time you let off some steam. Anyway you've earned it; I thought we were going to have an explosion on our hands. You did very well."
And so target practice began. It was my favorite part of these lessons because I actually got to use my gift instead of holding it in. I was getting to be a pretty good aim too. I successfully hit six out of ten cans first shot. It was still nowhere near as good as Dad who could send out a five pronged lightning bolt and hit all of them in two shots. But I was getting there.
Eventually Tommy ventured back downstairs and apologized. Twenty minutes later it was like the whole thing had never happened. Dad and I had set up twenty cans and were having a competition to see who could shoot them all down the fastest, and Tommy sat on the back of a couch along the far wall under the window cheering us on.
"Seriously Dad, do you want him to win? How could you miss that? Oh, good shot Ty!" he added after I hit one and made it go spinning sideways to knock down two others. I made a couple more hits, cans flying, ricocheting off the cold basement walls with an odd ping.
I raised my hand to hit my last can, I took aim, and
"Stop!" Tommy yelled. "Someone's outside!" he hissed. I ran to the window, immediately looking for the thoughts of whoever it was. Nothing. I had a feeling that wasn't a coincidence.
I peered out the window just in time to see a pair of faded red converse disappear behind the bushes.