Of Thorns and Lightning

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Flesh, Blood and Family

“Though it sounded crazy, Maize thought that the problems were because of Talia. And she was determined to find out why.”

♦️

Maize couldn’t sleep. She got a few minutes of light rest, but it seemed like she couldn’t sleep because of the headaches and the visions and the nosebleeds. She didn’t know for how long she would have to deal with random visions and how badly it would continue to hurt. She would take it day by day and only time would tell how her power was going to unfold.

Around 5, she rolled over and her feet hit the floor. She slipped on a pair of Nike glow leggings, neon yellow sneakers and a cropped hoodie before she tied her hair in a ponytail and grabbed her headphones. She wandered up to the dark kitchen before she grabbed an apple from the fruit basket on the center island. Here, she ran into Jordie Jones in the dark.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t see you, it’s dark and I didn’t want to turn on the lights.” He apologized.

“You just startled me, no big deal. What are you doing up?”

“I could ask the same of you. But I’m still on my hockey schedule, so I’m used to getting up sickeningly early for practice before my 8 a.m. classes. You?”

“I couldn’t sleep, I’m going to head out for a run.” She explained simply.

“I was, too. Mind if I join you?” He asked as they walked out of the kitchen.

“Nah, I don’t mind. I just hope you can keep up,” she teased as they took the elevator downstairs.

“Yeah, well see about that one.” He responded without missing a beat. Maize put her headphones in and tapped on her running playlist, and she immediately felt energized. Jordie couldn’t keep up with her or his promise that he could keep up, and she ran ahead with a fast and graceful pace Jordie hadn’t ever seen anyone do exactly like she had. Maize felt like a different person, she had never run like she was in that moment. Maybe she just unlocked a part of herself she had never previously discovered, but as she crossed the grassy terrain she felt like a superhero. She ran with Jordie following steadily behind her but not consistently falling further back for over an hour, and they had covered about five miles when they reached the top of a hill.

The sun was breaking the horizon when they had reached the top of the hill on the furthest East side of the land the compound was built on. Maize was tempted to lay in the grass and catch her breath, but she knew she would cramp up and die. Though, it was atypical of her to feel as good as she was after a five-mile run, and she thought that maybe increased endurance was a perk for this job. That was something she could get behind, rather than getting constant headaches and nosebleeds for a currently unknown cause.

Jordie, on the other hand, collapsed once he reached the top of the hill. He did some leg and back stretches to keep himself from cramping, but he was out of breath and obviously tired. Maize decided to lay down next to him after she had walked around in circles to cool her muscles down, watching the sun rise next to him. The sky was shades of intense orange, pink and blue and a gentle wind blew across Maize’s face. She let her eyes close as she enjoyed the moment, resting there for about ten minutes before she felt Jordie move next to her. She opened her eyes and stood up to face him.

“You ready to go back?” She asked.

“Yeah, lets walk it out, though.” He requested and she complied. They took the shortcut back to the compound, but he got a Charlie horse just a half a mile away from their destination. Maize offered to give him a lift the rest of the way, and he was hesitant at first, but she insisted. He climbed on her back and she gave him a piggy back ride to the doors where she swiped her ID card and the doors opened before them.

She dropped him off in a chair and told him to stretch while she grabbed a Gatorade from the mini fridge in the room on the ground floor they were sitting in. Maize then heard voices, though distant, and their topic of conversation put her on high alert.

“I don’t know who she thinks she is, throwing a tantrum, storming out of here, getting carried back in and then. being treated with the utmost respect as if she were royalty. We get it, you’re Thor, big whoop. She’s not better than the rest of us! Honestly? I don’t think she’s all that special.”

The voice was filled with venom and spite, and it could only belong to Talia.

A drop of blood dripped onto the hand holding her Gatorade as Talia entered the room with Angelina by her side.

Talia was obviously displeased when she saw Maize. Angelina was trying to discern if she could trust Talia’s words about Maize and was skeptical about agreeing blindly with her. Maize saw that Angelina was analyzing her and she didn’t interrupt. In fact, Maize didn’t say anything at all, even though she knew she should call Talia out on her words even if Talia meant for her to hear them. But she didn’t, and she kept on her way.

If there was anything she had to do right now, it would be to find William Townsend. He promised they would figure out her nosebleeds, and that was exactly what she was determined to do. She was stable enough to get there on her own, for which she was grateful because she didn’t know if her current condition was going to get any better or any worse as she went to find him.

“Jason, where’s William?” She asked, giving herself a good starting point.

“He’s in his office on the top floor. If you step into the elevator I can take you there.”

“Thank you, Jason.” She replied, the doors to the nearest elevator opening before her to her right. She stepped in and the doors closed, the ride up to William’s office was swift and gentle. When the doors opened, Jason instructed her that his office was the last door on the right as she walked down the left side of the hallway, and indeed it was.

She knocked on his door and he summoned her in. She pushed down on the handle and walked into his bright office, the sunlight hurting her eyes to accompany her dull headache. He looked up from his iMac to greet her.

“Hi, Maize. What’s up?” He asked, sliding his reading glasses off of his face and down onto the desk. He rested his elbows on the desk and locked his fingers together, his eyes on her.

“Mr. Townsend, we’ve got to figure out my power and what it means. I need to know why I keep getting these random nosebleeds. If I know the cause, maybe that can help me get to know it triggers a little better, because this is a little insane right now. I can’t sleep, William. It feels like every time something bad is about to happen or I’m about to hear something I shouldn’t have, I get this nosebleed, this headache, the dizziness.”

“Well, maybe that’s the cause. Maybe your power is the ability to know when something bad is going to happen. To know for sure, let’s get you to the basement. That’s our in-house hospital unit, and we can start figuring this out.”

“I’m in.” She agreed. William pushed his chair away from his desk and stood up, escorting her out of his office and into the elevator once again. He pushed the button for the basement, and they moved downwards rapidly. When the doors opened, Maize realized that William wasn’t joking; it really was just like a hospital, complete with the doctors and the equipment and the rooms. Granted it was not nearly the size of a normal hospital, but all the equipment was state-of-the-art. Maize was amazed at the sheer expanse of the compound, and the extent of William’s wealth.

William approached one of the doctors and explained everything while Maize sat back and listened, and the doctor seemed to know exactly what to do. She was friendly and invited Maize back to one of the examination rooms to confirm her medical history that was already listed in her file. The doctor let Maize explain in her own words what William had introduced, and she explained what seemed to be her condition and her thoughts on what it might be.

“Well, I think we should start by taking a few scans of your head. The first one is going to be a normal brain scan, then we will introduce other stimuli to see how your brain reacts and what it does if you get another vision that you said was preceded by a nosebleed. It might take a little while to figure it all out.”

“Good thing I have nowhere to be. I just need to figure it out for sure, with the facts to back it up because I don’t think I can solve this puzzle on my own, you know?” Maize answered. The doctor understood.

Maize, to her displeasure, had to change into a hospital gown and it was especially cold in the basement that was mostly furnished with concrete and steel. She took the time to braid her hair into two boxer braids before going in for her scans, making sure her hair was out of the way and would last her the entirety of the tests. William stayed close to observe what was happening for the duration of the tests as well.

“Have you noticed any specific stimuli that has acted as a trigger to your visions?” The doctor asked Maize.

“Well, this might be awkward, and you might think I’m crazy, but the last few dizzy spells and nosebleeds I’ve had were all near William’s daughter.”

William perked up and was as confused as Maize expected him to be.

“What, Talia?” He asked.

“Yeah. Meaghan was talking about how Talia came and threatened her a few days ago and I had one then, and this morning just before I walked into your office I had come back from a run to hear Talia talking with Angelina about me and how she thought I wasn’t all that special and thought I was being treated differently.”

“That’s a surprise,” He began, contemplatively. “But I can bring her down here for the tests, if that’s what’s needed.” He finished, rationalizing it in his head. The doctor said that was a good idea.

Talia was impossible to ignore when the elevator doors opened to reveal her, and her voice traveled through the mostly empty basement.

“Dad, what’s this even for? I promise you, I didn’t do anything, and I don’t understand why you need me.”

“We’re trying to figure out the underlying cause of Maize’s power.” William explained and Talia changed completely.

"Maize’s the reason for this?!" She asked, put completely on the edge.

“Yes. She said the last few times she’s gotten a vision and a nosebleed, it’s something negative involving you.” William explained and Maize was already feeling the effects of Talia’s presence. This caught the doctor’s attention since her scan results were changing as well.

“Maize, you are feeling alright in there?” The doctor asked. Maize just squeezed her eyes shut and tried to ignore the metallic taste in the back of her mouth.

“Talia, you don’t even know me! Why are your intentions towards me so bad?!” Maize asked, still inside the machine. The doctor was completely focused on the real-time results of the scan. William was confused but amazed that things were beginning to come together.

“Talia, what kind of bad intentions do you have?” He asked cautiously. He knew her lying capabilities were higher than average, but he was analyzing her response with everything he had. She knew this wasn’t the time to lie, either, but she was still contemplating it in the back of her mind. She hesitated with her response.

“What? It’s not like I have a complete plan for her ultimate demise already, I mean, nothing’s set in stone. I just don’t like her, plain and simple. She’s the exact type of person that makes me angry and irritated for literally no reason other than her aura, really. I just know that we’re never going to be friends because I don’t like her. She bothers me, and that’s the truth.”

“You don’t even know her, Talia.” William responded, and as they argued Maize’s condition progressively worsened.

“I know I don’t, but even if I did know her, I think things would just be made worse.” She answered honestly.

“It’s fine if you don’t like her, but I know I taught you better than to be outwardly mean and go out of your way to hurt somebody. That’s not how I raised you, Talia. From now on, you don’t have to like her, but quit the malintent.”

“See, that’s exactly it! I don’t think you’d be telling that to me if that was any other one of the initiates. I just get the feeling she’s treated differently than the rest of us, and that really bothers me because I don’t understand why, and I don’t think she should get any special treatment.”

“Maybe she is a little different, Talia. She’s going to inherit the ruling of an entire planet as well as responsibilities here on earth. She’s got a lot to learn and a lot to deal with and a lot yet to figure out, but that doesn’t mean she gets the kind of special treatment you’re thinking she’s getting.” William explained.

“Sorry to interrupt, Mr. Townsend, but Ms. Leto’s blood pressure just crashed and she’s unconscious.” The doctor exclaimed, going into the room and attending to Maize’s condition.

“We’ll talk more about this later, but for now, just leave her alone, okay? You’re barely living together, and you rarely ever have to see each other. Be angry, be upset, just don’t take it out on her. You bring that shit to me, okay?” He explained to his daughter before dismissing her and entering the room with the doctor and Maize.

The doctor was examining her vitals and waiting for her to come to again. Her blood pressure was slowly on the rise to the normal range and she was becoming more conscious with every passing second. She slowly sat up and leaned over to spit a generous amount of blood out of her mouth and into a bowl since it had collected in her mouth when she was lying on her back.

“Oh, lovely.” She muttered, her mouth still completely coated with blood, the iron taste overwhelming.

“I think it’s safe to say we know for sure that you have the power to detect tension and when bad things are going to happen,” William concluded, slightly satisfied that his diagnosis was right. The doctor concurred.

Maize spent the rest of the day recovering while William was brainstorming how her visions could be better controlled and how the pain of the headaches could be reduced. In the back of his mind, he still worried about Talia and Maize. A million things were running through his mind with possibilities of what could happen between them that would potentially be bad. Midway through, he realized that he was thinking of Maize the same way he thought of Talia: like his daughter.

Maize needed a father. Or at least someone that would treat her like a daughter, like a father would. The father he knew she never had. He still didn’t really know what he was doing as a parent, but Maize deserved someone that was willing to try, and William realized he was equipped to fill that role.

And so, the adventure began.

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