How do you go to sleep knowing that when you awake, you will be living your last few hours of life? The same way you go to sleep on the last day of summer break before school starts again. You don’t. I laid still, silently staring sleepily at the cement curved ceiling on my assigned cheap plastic mattress with styrofoam filling, wondering what happened when our souls departed this earth, formulating many strange theories based on nothing but what my textbooks said about the beginning of our universe, knowing that I was most likely far from what really happened when we died, but it kept me from thinking of the people I never said goodbye to and therefore it was enough for me. I tossed and turned throughout the hours, catching little glimpses of a sleeping Zuri at the opposite side of the room, who peacefully breathed in a life-filled rhythmic pattern. I tried at the very least, to convince myself that somehow, everything would turn out alright, maybe not for me, but for my mother and father, for Charlie and for Chloe, for Reagen and Savannah, for Jagger, my sweet little brown-eyed dog, and most of all, for Peter, the guy I fell in love with before I even knew what love was.
I was torn from my thoughts by a hushed thud a few rooms away. I thanked the Baltoid blood which ran through my veins and sat up. I swung my legs around and allowed my bare toes to touch the rough, bone-chilling ground. I rose to stand and walked toward the glowing light which emanated from the cracks around the door. I bumped into a small wooden chair which seemed to have simply appeared out of thin air. I felt around it and found a rough leather material. Excitement shot through me, bursting through every vein, every passageway, and every bone in my entire body as I realized what it was. I smiled and picked the pile of cloth and pair of leather boots up and brought it with me into the public bathroom. I quietly opened the door to an unoccupied stall before closing the metal divider and locking it. “Hello Beautiful,” I whispered as I ran the palm of my hand along the midnight blue leather. I then slipped off my dirty clothes and replaced them with the pile of cloth which had waited for me so patiently until I was able to claim them. I carefully placed each bit of sleek cloth where it was supposed to be and adjusted the zippers. Once I was finished I stepped out of the stall with newfound courage as I examined my new look. It was a deep midnight blue colored leather at the top which displayed an Embrey effect down to a sea blue at the base of the beautiful boots. The entire ensemble was adorned with white straps and zippers, giving the look a very practical feel. The leather cape was midnight blue on the outside and white on the inside and was connected with a silver chain which held a silver cursive “R” which laid inside a raindrop. I smiled at my reflection in the dirty mirror as I added the last item. My mask, the item which concealed my identity despite the fact that everyone around knew who I was and yet, I still felt the needed to be seen as something else. I still wanted someone to look into my eyes not to see Olivia James, a missing sophomore from California, but to see the other side of me. I wanted them to see someone stronger, more important even, I wanted to be seen as something more. I took a deep breath and placed the snow-white mask over my stormy sea-blue eyes, remembering what it felt like to be a hero. “I am Riptide,” I thought as I left the room.
“I see you found the present I got you,” Elizabeth laughed. I looked down at my suit with pride and nodded. “You like it?” she asked after a moment.
“Yes,” I said, my voice strong and steady. “Yes I do,” I said, walking up beside her and sitting down.
She smiled sadly and looked out at the vast sunrise which danced across our sky. There was a moment of hesitation, as if something important she wanted to scream had to remain silenced until finally, she was able to pry herself away and asked instead, “are you ready?”
“For what?” I asked, knowing what she was getting at. “To die?” she nodded nervously, her eyes meeting mine for just an instant before darting away as if scared I was going to leave. “No,” I said truthfully.
She laughed knowingly. “No one ever is.”
I sighed. “I always had my future planned out pretty carefully,” I said. “I never really wavered from this one fairly clear plan.”
“What was it?”
I chuckled sadly, reviewing my ideas now and realizing that I didn’t want any of it anymore. “I wanted to graduate high school, get a job somewhere to pay for an apartment, get a scholarship, go to school, get a degree in law, get a dog, become a lawyer, work my way up, find someone along the way, buy a big house with pretty circle windows and brick columns, reach the position of a governor, maybe adopt a kid, run for president and eventually win,” I finished, slightly disgusted at how small my plan sounded now.
“Wow,” Elizabeth said. “Sounds like you knew exactly what you wanted and how to get there.” I nodded hesitantly. She stared at me in silence for quite a while before asking, “well how about now?”
I shrugged. “I don’t really have a future, do I?”
Elizabeth looked down at the dusty, pebble-covered ground we sat on and shook her head. “Guess not,” she said, her voice filled with regret… “but if you did,” she said positively. “What would you do?”
I clicked my tongue against the top of my mouth and thought for a moment, surprised to hear her words. “I don’t know,” I began truthfully. “The moment I got these powers I wanted to become something more. A law student doesn’t really give me the feeling I want,” I said. “Plus it’s a full-time commitment and right now, I just want to go back to my city and help."
Elizabeth nodded as if she knew the feeling. “And you also say you wanted to be president,” she said, almost teasingly.
“Indeed,” I said. “I wanted to be Madam President Olivia James,” I laughed. “It doesn’t sound right to me anymore.”
“Well what does?”
“Maybe a job as a ‘first-contact’ agent.”
“You want to work with aliens?”
I shrugged. “Why not, I mean I am part alien right now.”
“How do you think that’s going to go down with the old fogies who only work there because they want all aliens to die before they land?”
“I’ll have to deal with that problem when it arises,” I whispered, a wave of sadness washing over me and beginning to slowly wear my resilience.
There was a moment of silence before Elizabeth continued. “You could work with us,” she said, her voice completely serious. I stared at her for a moment, unsure of what to say. I hesitated for a moment before nodding uncomfortably and shifting my eyes to focus on the flaming masterpiece which had now become a pinkish haze against a plain, infinite sea-blue sky.