Chapter 42: Buddy
“There’s something going on there,” Natalia repeated to herself as she paced back and forth, “I don’t know what, but something’s going on.” Despite Natalia’s nearly frantic mood, I felt a little relaxed. The once dreary basement we’d holed up in was actually beginning to come along- we’d scavenged for sheets and pillows and mattresses and pretty soon made a little apartment out of mismatched cloth. It was like a huge fort! I was sitting on my mattress now, staring up at Natalia while she paced in front of me. Lyndsay was lying on her back, entranced by the ceiling.
“What do you mean, pal?” I asked. Natalia had been like this since last week when she’d driven an old man to see Justice about money.
“I mean, the Council is up to something,” she replied, “No- not the Council. Not the entire Council, just Walker and his friends!” she exclaimed, almost to herself. She had stopped pacing and was looking down at the floor intently with her arms folded across her chest. “But what could- oh!” She looked up suddenly as if she had just reached an epiphany. “At a late night meeting, Walker had told me and Liberty to search for someone in City Hall that didn’t belong. We hadn’t found anyone but we did find traces of an unknown intruder. Once office in particular seemed slightly disturbed. We need to go to City Hall.” Even though Natalia had reached this realization, something still seemed to be bothering her.
“Are you sure that’s all?” I asked casually, not wanting her to think I was being nosy.
“What? Yeah,” she replied, slightly caught off guard. I knew she was thinking of something else, but I remained silent. Someone pounded on the front door on the floor above us and we all froze, not daring to breathe. Natalia had told us from experience that whenever there was a knock on the door like it usually meant a visit from the Council. “Lyndsay, go see who it is,” Natalia whispered frantically, looking at the dark skinned girl.
“Why me?” She asked at the same level. It looked like she was about to say something else, but the knocking interrupted her thought and made her jump. She ran up the stairs in a hurry and disappeared into the first floor. As soon as she was gone, Natalia ran over to where I was sitting and, in one swift motion, sat down beside me, turned my head towards hers, and kissed me. I sat stunned for a second, but my senses soon came back to me and I worked up the courage to kiss her back. That was my first kiss. No one knew that but me. We pulled apart, both of us out of breath.
“I’m sorry,” Natalia said in between breaths, looking a little bashful. “It’s just that…we might all be dead tomorrow. I might be dead before then. I really care about you, Buddy, and I wanted you to know that.” Before I could respond, Lyndsay came crashing down the stairs. One of Natalia’s hands was still resting on my shoulder and she quickly pulled it away, but not before Lyndsay noticed.
“It’s Derek and Goth Boy,” Lyndsay announced hurridly, ignoring the proximity between me and Natalia for the moment.
“Oh, no,” Natalia groaned, “We’ve got to go!”
“Go where?” I asked as I got up and followed the two girls up the stairs. The knocking came again, making us all run faster once we got to the first floor. Once we had our feet on solid ground, we crouched over and ran to the best of our abilities- we didn’t want to be seen through the windows.
“City Hall,” Natalia replied, “We’ve got to find out all that we can before tonight.”
“Why tonight? Do you know something?” Lyndsay asked. The knocking came again and my heart skipped a beat.
“No,” Natalia replied, just as we got to the back door, “But I intend to.” A muffled shouting made me turn around and I noticed in horror that Goth Boy and Derek had spotted us through the window.
“Run!” I yelled out, but my command was drowned out by the sound of Goth Boy propelling the door off of its hinges, causing it to fly in our direction. The three of us tore out the back door, ready to sprint, but it occurred to us that we had no idea where we were going. We knew where City Hall was, sure, but there was no way of getting out of the backyard without Goth Boy and Derek noticing. “We need to distract them,” I said as I looked around the yard for something to use.
“No we don’t!” Lyndsay called out the minute the back door flew open to reveal the two Council boys. “Go go!” We all ran as fast as we could to the road. Once we were out on the pavement, we each took a sharp right turn and started running in the direction of City Hall. Thankfully, we were only about a mile away from the Hall, but that was still a mile I didn’t want to run.
“Why are they chasing us?” I yelled to the obscured sky. No one replied and no one knew. Natalia screamed suddenly as Goth Boy used his mutant power to jerk her up in the air and throw her a few yards away. I watched, shocked, as an invisible hand pushed her into the road, making her skid face down on the pavement. Lyndsay and I ran up to a motionless Natalia, whose body was slumped on top of the ground with her eyes glued to the asphalt. Goth Boy and Derek soon caught up to us and Lyndsay immediately became tense as she turned around to face the two boys. I made myself pry my eyes away from Natalia so I could face our pursuers too. Derek pulled out a gun and pointed it at me, then Lyndsay, then back again, and so forth. Goth Boy took out his pistol and looked as if he were about to do the same, but an odd and painful-looking expression suddenly crossed his face. His body went limp suddenly, although he was still standing, and his eyes drooped, almost to the point of closing.
A minute passed. Derek slowly lowered his gun and decided Goth Boy’s change was more important than whatever he had planned to do. Lyndsay’s gaze bored right into Goth Boy’s now dangling head while my eyes flitted from the inanimate boy to Natalia’s body. I willed for her to move, twitch, do something to show she was alive and well. Suddenly- and I couldn’t be sure- I thought I saw her pointer finger shift slightly to the left. In that moment of suspected movement, Goth Boy suddenly became alert. He stared at nothing, unblinking for a moment, before he reached his hands up to his face without warning, dropped the pistol, and began ferociously clawing at his face. It looked like he was trying to pull off all the skin until there was nothing left but pink flesh. He screamed as he pulled his hands away and his face started to bleed everywhere. He stooped down, grabbed the pistol, put the barrel in his still screaming mouth, and pulled the trigger. The bullet went right through his head, leaving a spattered trail of blood over the road. All three of us stared at Goth Boy’s body in horror as it lay there, still twitching slightly, the eyes still wide open.
Wordlessly, Derek shoved his gun back into his coat pocket, lifted Goth Boy’s body off the ground, and ran as fast as he could with it back to the car they had parked outside our apartment. Natalia stood up carefully and dusted herself off. Her face didn’t serve as a break from Goth Boy’s now gruesome one- more than half of Natalia’s face was skinned and red, but thankfully blood wasn’t flowing freely. Some of the skin was still peeling off, but she didn’t seem to mind. “Before you say anything,” she said quietly and calmly, “That wasn’t me who did that to Goth Boy. It was Kia.”
“Kia?” Lyndsay asked quizzically. Natalia hesitated, realizing she had slipped up. She must’ve forgotten Lyndsay was there and had been talking directly to me.
“It’s my mutant power,” she explained, “If I’m hurt, someone named Kia takes over the body of my attacker and hurts them. Sometimes she kills them, like Goth Boy. Except, he’s not dead, since he’s a mutant and all. His power is telekinesis, meaning he can levitate and lift things without touching them, so maybe his opposite would be someone who can levitate them self?” I could tell she was trying to lighten the mood, but after what she did to Goth Boy, I knew I could never look at her the same way. I remembered how she’d kissed me earlier and I shuddered, wondering how I could’ve let her even touch me. “It was Kia!” She protested, as if reading my thoughts. “Not me! I swear!” We all just stood there, hoping no one had seen our little display.
“Well,” Lyndsay after a while, clearing her throat, “Are we still going to City Hall?” Natalia nodded. “Buddy?” Lyndsay asked, turning towards me. I kept on standing there, unable to make any words come out.
“Buddy?” Natalia repeated, the sound of a plea in her voice.
“Yeah,” I said, my voice emanating as a hoarse whisper, “Yeah, I- I’m coming.” I kept my head down while I followed the two girls to the Hall, the whole while trying to forget that my best friend had practically committed murder.
I was tossing and turning again, not getting enough sleep, even when I was merely trying to take a nap. No one else was in the room with me, not like usual. I’d been given temporary reprieve from today’s experiments, although I wasn’t sure why. I couldn’t sleep because of the visions I kept receiving, mostly of people wielding abilities only imaginable in storybooks. They were people of all ages and races, some in tougher situations than others. They covered rooms in darkness, threw fire, and blended into walls. Each time I dreamt of them I was tempted to draw them and, pretty soon, I did.
I wasn’t sure where I was getting these visions from. I knew I’d never seen any of these people in my life before and, judging from their surroundings, it didn’t look like I ever would. But why did I get the feeling I wasn’t the only one who knew about them? Not the only one who had their pictures tacked to my wall? Maybe I would ask Dr. --------, he might know. He seemed to know everything supernatural that went on around here. Maybe he was responsible for their entire existence? But no, I couldn’t ask him, couldn’t risk getting personal attention again. I’d just have to wait until I figured it out myself.
“I know I’ve seen Derek go down there before,” Natalia said quietly as she peered around a corner outside of City Hall to look at a manhole in the back parking lot.
“That’s disgusting, I’m not going down there if that’s what you’re suggesting,” Lyndsay proclaimed while wrinkling her nose in disgust.
“We’ve got to,” Natalia replied, “There’s got to be something important down there, or else he wouldn’t go into a confusing labyrinth of sewers twice a week. We’ve got to go see what’s down there! Don’t worry, you know we’ll be protected.” I’m sure we will, I thought bitterly, But by whom? Can you even imagine how scared to death I am that you’ll turn on us? On me? But I kept my mouth shut. She said her power only came out if she was hurt, and if I said that to her face right now, she would not walk out of the conversation with her heart intact. After looking left and right for anyone who might stop us, Natalia quickly and quietly snuck over to the manhole. Lyndsay followed right behind her and I realized I had no choice but to follow them.
Once we reached the hole in the ground, it didn’t take long to pry the lid open. Natalia must’ve been right about Derek coming here so often- the lid was an entire inch out of place. Determined to get away from her gaze, I stepped in front of Lyndsay, who was in front of Natalia, and forced myself down into the sewers. My foot hit a ladder rung once I reached it under ground and I soon found myself climbing steadily into the darkness. “We don’t have a light, do we?” I asked Lyndsay, who was right on top of me.
“No,” she replied. Once we were all down, it became obvious that the only light available was the filtered light coming from above. Looking up, I noticed I’d never been more bothered by the milky fog that prevented us from seeing the sun. It scared me, but not as much as the event that had taken place not ten minutes ago.