This is chapter three of a story about a teenage superhero.
“...Can anyone tell me the name of the second president? Anyone? How about Jade? Where are you? Ah, there you are. Wha- Jade Grien!” The voice floats towards me gradually, as if it’s in a dream. But then the furious, screechy yell sends a jolt through me and I jump, frightened.
“Yes, ma’am?” I manage to choke out. I feel twenty pairs of eyes locked on my rapidly reddening face. At the front of the room, beady eyes squinting, Mrs Robinson says,
“I will not tolerate laziness in my class. Drop down and give me twenty.” I swallow, but the lump in my throat remains. As I slide out of my seat and onto the ground, everyone watches. I arrange myself in a push-up position. Silently, I start. One...two...three…. My whole body quivers from exertion, but I don’t stop. The room is quiet as stone. No one looks anywhere but at me, and humiliation burns my cheeks. I push myself up and down faster, to get it over with quicker. Eighteen...nineteen...twenty. I scramble back into my seat as quick as possible. Mrs. Robinson gives me the evil eye for a moment before continuing the lecture.
“So, American politics that boring?” Pete asks me at lunch, raising a pickle to his mouth. I shrug.
“Yeah. That, and I’m just really tired. I think I’m going crazy.”
“Oh, that’s all right,” says Mady, sprinkling raisins on a honey-butter sandwich, “that’s me every day.” Which makes us all laugh. We sit at a lone table in the back of the lunchroom, but we don’t mind. It’s quieter here and we can enjoy ourselves. Still our fit of laughter fades into nervous chuckles as people give us curious glances from the other tables. The odd looks don’t last very long, but they remind me of something. I realize it’s from this morning when I had the white-noise attack and the kid across the aisle looked at me funny.
“Want to hear something really crazy?” I ask the other two. I know the incident was weird. In fact, mentioning it will probably make me seem even more so. But Pete and Mady, they’re not ones to judge. I know my friends aren’t going to stare at me like I’m a lunatic.
“Sure,” Pete says in response to my question, still working on his pickle. I swallow and begin.
“ This morning something really weird happened, on the bus. I was just sitting there when I heard a horrible sound. It was like white noise. It got so loud that it hurt my ears, and I think I blacked out for a second. But...no one else seemed to hear anything.” Mady cocks her head, brow furrowed.
“Huh. That’s funny. White noise?” I nod silently, and she says, “That’s really strange. And no one else heard it, so….” Her voice trails off.
“Do you know how it happened, why?” Pete asks, and I shrug,
“I have honestly no idea. It was...unlike anything I’ve ever heard before.” I shiver slightly at the memory, of the terror that gripped me when my world became dark, even if only for a nanosecond.
“Are you alright, Jade? You look a bit pale,” Mady says, with a concerned look on her face. I shake my head, but inwardly, I’m freaking out.
“It’s probably just nothing,” Pete says slowly, “I mean, we’re living beings and every one of us different. Weird stuff happens sometimes. Like every so often my eye twitches and I have no idea why.” I smile, for a second my fear quietened. Of course. Things like muscle spasms happen all the time. But….but...who ever heard of someone’s ears suddenly going glitchy? This fact haunts me for the remainder of the day. Being who I am, I’m used to illogical fear phases. But this time I think it’s a real reason to be afraid. Of course, I think that every time, but my brain manages to erase that fact with visions of deafness, and one-in-a-million diseases. I can’t help imagining myself in some hospital lying immobile and at the mercy of some strange sickness.
By the time I get home, I’m better, but still shaken. Once I open the door, I’m greeted by a ridiculously large blur of brown fur.
“Hi, Chewie,” I say, grinning despite my paranoia. Chewie wags his tail furiously and attempts to lick my forehead. I manage to calm him a bit by petting his large head, which comes up to my navel. Then I escape outside, and let the sweet, warm spring air revive me. I let the sound of the breeze in the trees and the warble of birds erase the fears that plague me. My backyard is as small and uninteresting as any other suburban backyard, but to me, it’s invaluable. Sitting under my tree, as I am now, helps me maintain my sanity. I lean back against the trunk and position myself so that my spine doesn’t have any knotholes digging into it. Then I watch the slow progression of clouds across the sky.
I don't know how long I gaze at the clouds, but by the time my mom’s call for dinner shakes me out of my stupor, the palms of my hands seem to have permanent grass lines.
My legs have fallen asleep, and I stumble over the doorsteps into the house. My ears are immediately greeted by a flow of lively chatter from my dad, who is excitedly telling my mom about his newest story. Or 'scoop’, as he calls it.
“Yes, quite a story, that one. See, the thing about news is, it always has to be, well, new. You can never tell the same story twice, it'll lose its pizzazz. But I'll guarantee nobody's ever heard o’ this!” My dad claps his hand, then rubs them together, jittery with enthusiasm. I look at Mom. She’s stirring a sauce on the stove while listening to my dad talk. She projects an air of calmness, whilst Dad's giddiness is highly contagious. They can be so different at times, I have no idea how they ended up getting married.
Dad suddenly notices me, and claps me on the back. “How was school today?”
“Uh..it - it was okay,” I stutter, and sit down at the kitchen island. The unusual day has left me feeling tired, and soon after dinner, I plunge into a much-needed sleep.