The Protectors-In The Land of Light

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We're Not Heroes, We're Just Kids

“Oh. You’ve got to be kidding me,” I grumble, slinking low into my seat. The world spins. Who else was this happening to? Should I tell him? Or leave the bus and never look back?

But he trusted you, a tiny obnoxious voice tells me. No way around it, I care about people even though I’ve been hurt.

“I can’t believe my luck,” I grumble as I pull back the sleeve of my sweatshirt. The tattoo stares back at me.

Chase looks between the tattoo and me, then back to the tattoo. “Wait.” He pulls back his sweatshirt and holds his wrist next to mine. It has the same circle, but inside of his, there’s a brain.

“Woah,” he says, glancing at me. Our eyes meet and we must be having the same thought. We both have this strange thing happening to us.

Dropping our wrists back into our laps, we sit in shocked silence for a moment.

“When… how did you get this?” My words spill out, awkward and scattered. Putting my fingers to my head, I try to fight back the oncoming headache.

“Ye-yesterday afternoon. This needle thing attacked me while I was getting boxes from my yard. Then suddenly a killer headache. It gets worse when I touch people though. I can’t stop the thoughts from coming.” I glance at him. That’s why he flinched at me when I touched him. I wonder if some of his pain transferred to me. If what I’m feeling is an ounce of what he’s feeling. I can’t imagine his pain.

He blurts out, like he has to get it off his chest, “I’m a telepath.”

Obviously,” I snap, a little too loudly. A couple eyes turn our way. I duck. “So it happened to both of us. Around the same time… and there could be more of us.” I glance around at the other people on the transport. It could have happened to any of them.

“This is so strange,” he whispers, stuffing his hands into his pockets. “We’re just normal people. I have only seen movies about this kind of thing.”

“We’re not heroes, we’re just kids,” I whisper then add, “Why would this happen to us?”

“Who knows, we’re totally normal,” he whispers again and crinkles his brow, like he is thinking very hard about something. “What if my dad getting a job here was supposed to happen? What if I was mind controlled to sit here, so that we’d meet.” I twist my fingers, trying to make sense of all of this.

“No one could do that,” I say, trying to convince myself as well as him. “It’s not possible.” He nods reluctantly, like he doesn’t believe me. I glance at the tattoo that was changing my life in drastic ways. It shouldn’t be possible. I have the urge to scratch at the skin till this mark rubs away. Yet that would probably only draw attention to it. And scratching away a tattoo would hurt terribly.

“What can you do?” he pushes, obviously trying to put the fact that he might have been mind controlled behind him. Except, I understand his curiosity. I have the same problem. Still there is a lump in my throat that makes me not want to speak to Chase ever again. About any of this creepy, freak thing that is happening.

“Manipulate water,” I mumble and glance around making sure no one is listening on the smooth floating transport bus.

“That is super cool,” he says. I glare at him, wanting to point out that a telepath is practically useless unless you want to be someone who gossips all the time. “How could you tell the needle affected you?”

“I was swimming, and I noticed the water . . . calling me, I guess.” I shudder. Saying it outloud was strange. “And then it rose above me in this . . . wall thing and then I told it to go down and it . . . obeyed.” My voice is barely audible by the end of my rushed explanation. His eyebrows raise so high I think they might topple off his forehead.

I notice we have stopped at the school (thankfully) so I grab my backpack and get up, wanting to end this conversation. To get away from this person who knows. I start down the aisle, but he grabs my hand and pulls me back down onto the seat. He releases my hand quickly, though his eyes remain pleading.

“Okay, El, I know you probably don’t want to talk about this, but please, please can we still be friends after all of this? I know I kinda blew the fact that you could ever trust me with the whole ‘reading your thoughts’ thing.”

“You’re right about that.” He shakes his head and laughs.

“I’m really sorry again, but maybe give me a second chance. Ma’am?” He adds the last part in a teasing voice, like calling me ‘ma’am’ is a joke, which it kind of is. I contemplate ignoring him, but his tattoo makes me wonder if there is more happening than I can understand.

“Sure. Fine. Okay,” I grumble and look away. I don’t really want to listen, or give him a second chance. Although something is keeping me from running into the school and getting lost in the crowd of high schoolers.

“I really appreciate it.” Relief is plain on his face. There’s also fear radiating off of him, like he’s afraid to be alone. To be left in this new world with an unusual problem.

“I am kinda mad at you for reading my thoughts, though,” I add and glare at him. The fact that he had heard everything I was thinking makes me shiver. How could he still want to talk to me after he had seen inside my mind? Yet he’s so different from the other people I’ve met it doesn’t shock me.

And maybe it would be nice to have another ally.

He shakes his head and laughs, making me crinkle my nose in confusion.

“I only opened my mind to yours for a moment,” he says and laughs again. “Your mind is warm but sharp, calculating. It was so weird.” I punch his arm. And he rubs the spot where I hit him.

“I would prefer not to hear how my mind feels, thanks,” I reply sarcastically. I stomp off the bus, not glancing back to see if he’s following me and march into Ractia North High School.

It’s tall black brick walls reach about two stories and buildings are spread across the campus for other sessions. No trees or plants line the concrete sidewalks that weave through the dreary campus. The bright California sun beats on the solar paneled windows creating a glare. We all meet in the main building in the morning to get stuff from our lockers.

I only glance back for a second and keep my eyes down. Spotting Chase’s black shoes right behind my white sneakers, I quickly avert my eyes back to my own feet. Yes, he read my mind, but there’s a small part of me that wants to help him get through this. And to have someone on my team.

And maybe someday, he could be a friend.

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