Chapter 3: Lost
“DAMMIT, stop shooting my truck!” Sam yelled out his window.
Just before I lost sight of the school, the principal came out the doors and the agent quickly hid his gun in his coat.
Sam tried to look back for them. “Are they following us?”
“I doubt it with that flat tire.”
“I hope they do.” He gritted his teeth. “It’ll give me a good excuse to run ’em off the road.” He grimaced. “Why are they after you, anyway? Did you set off a bomb in the hall back there?”
My chest tightened. I couldn’t tell him—they’d come for him, too.
“Never mind.” He shook his head. “I don’t wanna know.”
I nodded and relaxed a bit. Sam did some crazy things, but he was smart.
He took another corner, tires screaming. “Where are we headed?”
I remembered my date with Mandy and glanced at my watch. “The diner.”
Storm clouds rushed toward the town.
“Are you serious?” Sam looked dumbfounded. “You’re still going on your date after what just happened?”
“No, but I need to kill some time before I head back to my house. That’s probably where those agents are headed.” I looked back once more to make sure we weren’t followed. “My car’s at Tony’s shop and the diner’s just a few blocks away. If Mandy’s still waiting for me, at least I can tell her I gotta leave town.”
“You’re leaving town?”
“You got a better idea?”
Sam sighed with resignation.
After a few more turns, the truck came to a screeching halt in front of High Plains Diner. I sprang from the passenger seat and jogged toward the little restaurant. Trying to compose myself, I smoothed my shirt and ran a nervous hand through my hair.
As I stepped inside and scanned the restaurant, my heart sank. Mandy wasn’t there.
“Hey, Ian.” Sally had her order pad in hand. “Want your usual?”
My shoulders slumped. “Thanks, Sally, but I can’t stay.”
“You okay?” She holstered her pad and pen. “You look a little down.”
I shrugged. “Have you seen a girl my age with curly blonde hair and blue eyes?”
“Yeah, she’s been here a while.” She glanced at the half-drunk soda sitting at the empty booth near the window. “I think she’s in the restroom.”
Hope sprung back into me, but it quickly vanished. It wasn’t like it would ever work with me being on the run from those suits.
If there were a God, He had it out for me. Everything I’d touched here lately had turned to garbage. Maybe I’d be doing Mandy a favor if I just left.
Sally frowned at me as I turned to the exit.
I hesitated. Was I making a mistake?
As I reached for the door, I froze at the sound of Mandy’s voice.
“Ian. You made it.”
I turned to see Mandy’s excited smile beaming across the room. My stomach unknotted as the edges of my lips curled up nervously. “Oh, you’re still here.”
“Where else would I be?” Mandy closed the distance between us, cheerful as could be in her tight, low-cut, magenta shirt and short, black skirt—a complete change from what she wore earlier.
I ran a hand through my hair.
“I got us a table.” She turned to sit down.
“Actually, can you come outside for a second?”
“Sure.” Her tone was bubbly.
She showed a gentle smile when I opened the door for her.
“I hate to say this, but…” I sighed. “…I can’t stay. Something’s come up. I— I have to leave town. I’m not sure when I’ll be back.”
“Oh.” Mandy’s countenance sank. “That’s too bad. Is it something I did?”
“No, no,” I said. “I’d love to stay if I could.”
“I understand.” Her big blue eyes and downturned smile said different. They turned full-on sad, breaking my heart. “I’m sorry you have to go.”
“Me too.” My smile hung heavy with regret.
“I waited months for you to ask me out. I guess I can wait a little longer.” A hopeful glimmer came to her eyes.
“Really?” I frowned. “I, uh… I’m just not used to a girl being interested in me.”
Mandy was popular, and I was a nobody. Was she really that interested in me? I’d worried before that if she got to know me, she wouldn’t be.
“Well, I’m not the only girl interested in you.”
I gave her a puzzled look.
“I’m surprised I’m the first one to get a hold of you,” she said.
“No way.” I shook my head. “None of the girls at school like me.”
“Oh, come on Mr. Mysterious and Brooding.” She raised an eyebrow. “Girls love that.”
I couldn’t see my face, but it must have turned every shade of red in about two seconds. Maybe my attempts to cut girls short when they’d tried to talk to me at school had kept them from being able to ask me out. Surely not, though. Mandy must’ve just been trying to make me feel better.
“Don’t worry. I think it’s cute.”
I looked around, nervous. “I hope I’m not gone long.”
She gave me a sad-but-hopeful look. “Can I have a rain check?”
She put her hand on my arm and kissed my cheek. “I’m holding you to that.”
My head was spinning. My first date was a disaster, and yet I’d gotten a kiss right as I was about to skip town on her. Could the universe be any more cruel?
“See you soon, Ian.”
“I hope so.”
I hopped into the truck and gave her a regretful smile as we sped away.
“You sly dog.” Sam slapped me on the shoulder. “You made the girl wait forever, spent two minutes with her, then ditched her, and she kissed you for it. You have hidden talents, my friend.”
I snickered. “I wish. I’m just glad I didn’t start drooling.”
Sam gave a roaring laugh as he hung a left toward Tony’s shop. Droplets of water appeared on the windshield as menacing clouds swept overhead, plotting against us.
I looked at my watch. “We better hurry.”
“You got it, boss.”
The accelerator hit the floor, and my back sank into the seat. I clung to the handle on the ceiling for dear life.
A moment later, the sky fell out on us like we were in the middle of a hurricane. Sam careened through the streets like a madman, tossing me around the truck. I threw my hands on the dash to keep from eating it as we came to a sliding stop at Tony’s Garage.
I pulled the hood of my jacket over my head and slid out of the vehicle.
Inside, I brushed beads of water from my clothes.
Tony stood behind the counter. “Hey, Ian. Your car’s ready to go.”
“Great.” I wasted no time crossing the floor to the register.
“Some vacuum lines were cracked. Couldn’t hold idle.” Tony slid my keys across the counter. “Runs smooth now, though.” He flashed a corny smile.
As I pulled out my wallet, he waved me away.
“No charge. Didn’t take but about ten minutes.”
“Thanks.” I threw a ten on the counter, grabbed my keys, and started to turn.
“In a hurry?”
“Yeah, Sam and I were supposed to be at the pool hall ten minutes ago.” I lied with good reason. If the suits came asking about us, Tony would misdirect them to the pool hall.
“Okay, well, you guys have fun.”
I rushed out the door to my car and turned the key before I’d settled down in the seat. The car revved to life.
I checked the gauges, then let the clutch out and pulled the car alongside Sam’s pickup. Thanks for the help. You gonna be okay?”
“I’ll be fine,” Sam yelled over the noise of the storm. “If the suits come looking for me, I got nothin’ to tell ‘em. I don’t even know where you’re goin’.”
“That makes two of us. Be careful.”
Sam nodded. “You too.”
With a rev of the engine, I dumped the clutch and spun my Rx7’s tires, looking like an idiot.
Sam snickered at me as he flew past.
The rubber finally found some traction as I backed off the accelerator, and the car eased forward. A moment later, I raced through the streets toward the country, but the wet, oily pavement made it feel more like driving on ice.
I took an indirect route to my house to avoid passing the suits.
A blood vessel thumped loudly in my head, echoing my frantic heart as I turned onto the long, muddy driveway between our empty cornfields. I slowed to a lethargic pace, ready to flee at a moment’s notice.
The car ran through a deep pothole accompanied by an awful sound of metal scraping something underneath the engine. I cursed my dad for not re-graveling the driveway.
Screw it. I gunned the accelerator.
My car bucked and jarred down the pothole-infested driveway. I hit another recess, this one deeper than the others. The car thudded then spun the tires for a moment as it revved high. When they grabbed hold of the ground again, the car jerked violently. An explosion erupted from the motor with a pop from the tailpipe. The engine seized, locking up the rear tires, causing the car to slide to an abrupt stop just before I reached the house.
My stomach abruptly felt sick. “Son of a…”
Just like it had only a month ago, the motor had blown again. How could this happen today of all days? The driveway had probably gouged the oil pan and left the engine suddenly dry. Rotary motors were so fragile.
I tried restarting the motor. No luck. I slammed both hands into the steering wheel and cursed. It really was blown.
How would I get out of town now?
It didn’t matter. I just needed to keep moving.
Donning my hood, I slipped out the door and slammed it shut. The suits would probably have the cops looking for my car anyway. I took one last worried look at it, then turned to the house.
Water exploded with each footfall as I sprinted across the lawn to reach the cover of the porch. When I flung open the front door, it nearly knocked my father down.
“Where have you been?” Dad shouted in my face like a drill sergeant. “Your mother’s in the hospital. She hydroplaned into oncoming traffic on her way to get you at school. The school said you may have destroyed some school property with some kind of bomb. Then men in suits came asking about you. What did you do?”
“You know what?” He scowled. “I don’t even want to hear it. Your mother may not make it through the night. This is all your fault.” His eyes bored holes through me. “Get out of my house. You don’t live here anymore.”
I stumbled back at his words, lost my footing, and fell down the steps onto the sopping wet grass.
Was I really that horrible a son, that much of a burden? Had I really put Mom in the hospital?
The events cycled through my mind, working out the details, and only one conclusion came to mind. If Dad had picked me up when he was supposed to, I never would’ve run into James, and Mom wouldn’t have been called to the school. This wasn’t my fault.
It was his.
I balled my fists, but I couldn’t confront him while he was about to leave for the hospital. This anger wasn’t going away. Like a raging freight train that couldn’t be stopped, I had to divert it somehow or it could get ugly real fast.
I hoisted myself to my feet. “Fine!” I shouted back. “You get what you’ve always wanted. I’m gone.”
I ran from the house. Moments later, the whine of Dad’s sedan faded into the distance as I stopped in a grove of trees next to the west cornfield. The rage inside grew, but something distracted it. The trees. They looked…frozen. I touched one with my index finger. It was cold as ice. Had one of the agents done it? Maybe this was a calling card to let me know they’d be back for me.
All it really did was make me that much more angry. And the anger was nearly ready to explode out of me. I didn’t want to destroy the trees, though, or the agents would know I’d been there.
Then the questions started to flow through my head. Would I ever see Mom again? Would they even let me into the hospital to see her?
I growled, just wanting everything to stop to give me just a few moments of relief. But nothing I’d ever done had really stopped the thing from coming out of me when I was that far gone.
I stumbled into the cornfield, far enough from the trees that I wouldn’t leave a mark on them, I hoped.
I looked to the sky, fell to my knees in the mud, and cried out in pain.
The darkness inside clawed its way out of me.
I slammed my fists down with such force, the ground rippled outward in all directions like waves in an ocean of dirt. Without warning, the earth dropped out below like a sinkhole. I scurried backward just in time to keep from falling into the chasm. So much for not leaving a mark.
Staring into the gaping darkness was like peering into my soul.
Then, the rumble of a sedan tore me from my thoughts.
Their dark blue Crown Vic slid as it turned onto our driveway, accelerating. The car jerked toward me and smashed through the fence.
There was no time to think, so I ran. What direction, I don’t know. I didn’t care. I just ran.
The ground sank deeper beneath each step as the impacts grew stronger with every stride. My legs moved faster and faster. Running at that speed was impossible…and yet I was doing it.
Nearby objects streaked past in a blur. My mind worked quickly, like a finely tuned machine, honing in on objects ahead. I crashed through a fence like it was made of paper. Then another one. I was too scared to jump over them, afraid I might lose my footing and slide for a mile. The raindrops were like darts piercing my skin. The downpour eventually ceased, and a clear sky replaced the once brooding clouds.
I noticed the buildings on the horizon and realized I was headed toward Denver at an alarming rate.
Structures darted past me.
My footfalls were more solid when I hit pavement.
Eventually, exhaustion invaded my muscles, my heart, even my bones. Life was draining from me.
I slowed from fatigue, but not enough. At that speed, if I lost my footing, I’d die.
And then it happened. My legs practically turned to jello beneath me. I threw my hands out just enough to absorb some of the impact, but the side of my face still smashed into the ground. My body flattened out and slid with incredible velocity across muddy grass. Thankfully, I’d cleared the pavement. Maybe I’d live through this after all. But did I want to?
I slid for what seemed like the length of a football field. Maybe farther. My near-lifeless body came to a standstill only inches from a massive boulder.
I lay on the ground, life slipping from me.
How had I gotten myself into this, and who were the men in suits? Could I ever go back home? I’d run from these powers all my life, too scared to let them out until that day, and look where it’d gotten me. Fleeing from agents and nearly dead. If not for my powers, Mandy and I would’ve been having dinner, and Dad wouldn’t have kicked me out.
Starbursts closed in around my field of vision. I was fading.
A beautiful girl with a haze of light around her like an angel headed my direction. She was cut off by a silhouette stalking toward me, some kind of angry beast sent to drag me to hell.
As it grabbed me, everything went black.