Wormwood Michigan – Bennett residence.
Sam walks in the dining room for breakfast. Zoey 16 years old is scarfing down her omelette before school. He looks around the kitchen not seeing his. “Victoria, where’s mine?” Zoey jabs the last mushroom off her plate. “We’re out of eggs. I made you a warm bowl of oatmeal.” He sits down starring at what in his mind looks like pig slop.
Zoey’s cheerful eyes waiting and watching her father take his first bite before she leaves for school. His face crunches up from the texture. “Yuck!” Sam says in his mind. He looks at his daughter who is smiling with glee. Zoey leans over and kisses his cheek. “Love you guys!” She runs out the door as the bus pulls up.
“Sadist.” He whispers drinking his coffee. She skips steps getting onto the bus. The cool kids sit in the back of the bus. Mostly to get away with various antics. She sat in the middle. She wasn’t cool but she wasn’t a loser either. She had friends. Zoey was just an individual. A loner is what her friends call her. “Zoey come sit with me!” A goth girl from the back calls out. She gets up to go sit with her. “No moving around while the bus is in motion.” The bus driver growls through the speakers. “Sorry, she yells back.”
“Hey. What’s up?” Zoey asks as she takes a seat. Mandy, her goth friend giggles. “You don’t want to sit next to David do you?” She looks forward seeing David. A fat nerd who lacks any social confidence to make friends, and is generally thought of as a creep because he is so quiet. There was also an unspoken racism through out this small town. Nothing as melodramatic as cross burning, but through glares and murmurs. A tension is formed when David walks in a room. He is one of the only few black kids at Aim High School.
Wormwood has a population of a little more then 5000. There is a superstition that Wormwood is under some hypnotic state. Due to the fact that every single person has had at one point or another an aspiration to leave but never did. Most people’s houses are littered with car parts or junk. There’s a fix it yourself mentality in the Midwest. However in Wormwood this mentality is necessary because most people lived just above or below the poverty line.
During lunch David Stays in the Library. Sometimes he brings his comics or manga from home. Usually he’ll rummage through the fiction sections. He loves science fiction as well as fantasy. The library is where David lets his imagination run wild. For David the library is also refuge from bullies. Imagination and knowledge are repellent for them. Because when they walk into David’s sanctuary they realize how hollow and invaluable they are as human beings. Like if a fun house mirror was accurate.
David sits reading a comic book that’s hidden behind a text book out of shame. He’s grinning ear to ear. He received the first issue of a classic 70’s comic in the mail. It’s called ‘Shaolin warrior!’ “Someone help me!” The dialogue bubble reads coming from a young brunette. Up above, from the roof top of a building an Asian man falls into the alley way with his yellow garment flowing as he braces for impact. “Are these brutes giving you trouble miss?” Just when she thinks she couldn’t be anymore confused. What appears to be a monk falls from the sky to save her. “Yes! Th-they stole my purse.” Bending his knees getting into a stance that was taught by Shaolin monks over thousands of years. He faces these thieves using his almighty fists. “There is nothing to fear miss. You have one of greatest Shaolin warriors protecting you. These thieves are…”
Michael, one of the many bullies David faces. Snatches the comic from behind him. The text book falls to the floor. Michael looks like an amalgamation of an inbred skater redneck. “Are you still reading this cheesy kiddy shit?” He has a wide malicious grin.
David filled with contempt tries to play it off. “It’s just some light reading. Ya know? For fun.” Michael pulls the spine apart, tearing the comic in half. All 22 pages scatter onto the floor. Filled with resentment he just stares at the pages while Michael stands amused at his misery. “Those heroes you probably fantasize about saving you.” Michael shakes his and smiles. “They don’t exist. No one is going to save you. No one even likes you.” Michael avoids eye contact when the last page on the floor catches his eye. “You can’t save everyone.” The Shaolin Warrior tells his alley in arms.
Zoey is pulling out a book from the fictional section for her book report. When she spots Michael harassing David. She sneaks behind Michael After his, “no one likes you,” comment. “Hey dumbass. Last I checked the libraries were for the literate. So why don’t you hop on your square bus and take off.” You got a problem? Michael and Zoey stand toe to toe with opposing anger. “Dumbass, illiterate, in the library, needs to leave. I think got all my bases covered.” She says sparing no attitude. David’s looking at his clenched fists wishing everyone would go away. Simaletaneously trying not to show panic on his face.
Michael blows past Zoey. “Eh, screw you guys.” Zoey picks up David’s comic pages and sets them on the table. Embarrassed he had a girl defend him. He mumbles, “thank you.” Trying to give him advice but also not kick him when he’s down. “Next time you might want to interject when someone insults you kid.”
“You mean like your friend this morning.” She forgot it was him on the bus this morning. “Oh yeah, sorry about that.” David grabs his comic and puts it in his backpack. “No big deal.” She tilts her head back realizing David’s trying to play it cool. “Kind of seems like it is. After that passive aggressive remark.” He throws his bag over his shoulder. “I’m use to illiterate short bus riding dumbasses in this country bumpkin town. Look I’m grateful, but all you did was prolong an inevitable ass kicking. He changes the subject when he see’s what book she has in her hand. “The curious incident of the dog in the night time.” He reads out loud. “Have you read that one yet?” She looks at it. “No I haven’t. I just picked it out before coming over here. Have you?”
“I have. It was really funny. It’s not about some sad soccer mom’s hardship raising a kid with autism. The kid with Autism wrote the book. The main character Christopher is really charming.” She looks it over not realizing she didn’t get the chance to read the synopsis on the back. Okay I’ll do my book report on this one then.” David nods, “good choice.” She asks his name. He reply’s. “David. Yours?” She holds out her hand. “Zoey. With a y.” They shake hands and just as they part ways. David blurts out. Do you want to… be… study partners?” She smiles. “Yeah, that’d be cool.” She says as she wipes her hand on her jeans. You have clammy hands David.” She laughs and walks away. He smiles too. David made his first friend at Aim High School.
Walking to class after a restroom break David is spotted by Michael and his friends. They all cut class. At first they walk slow so they aren’t detected. Once David sees them he walks a little faster. Noticing they are keeping with his pace he make a deliberate left. “Am I paranoid…” Michael appears before him with a grin. He must have ran towards the opposing parallel hallway. “Shit.” David says aloud. A hand slaps David’s back. His neck jerks forward from the surprise. Michael’s delinquent entourage is behind him. Michael walks towards him slowly. Playing a psychological game of cat and mouse. “If you were a superhero what would it be? Let’s see. Zero-man, blubber-woman, Morbidly obese Krillin? Pick one. Michael demands.
He was going to choose Zero-man but Zoey’s voice went through his head. “Next time you might want to interject when someone insults you.” He stands tall. Looks his offender directly in his eyes. “Michael, I don’t have any problem with you. Now get out of my way.” Everyone laughs. Michael delivers a hard blow to David’s soft stomach.
Zoey asks if she can go to the bathroom. The teacher makes a smarmy remark. “Last I checked miss Bennett we don’t have baths installed at this high school.” Zoey rolls her eyes. “May I use the restroom?” The teacher smirks proud of herself. “Yes you may.”
While walking to the ladies room she here’s something from the men’s room. David comes bursting out. His head’s soaked from being shoved face first into the toilet. He’s got blood on his shirt. From a busted lip and nose. They come out cackling about to deliver more abuse when they see Zoey. “Hey sweetheart, come to save your little fuck-boy.” They kick him in the ribs while he whimpers on the ground. She’s having flashbacks of all the things her father told her about using her powers and staying under the radar. Her fathers voice is muffled by her rage. She tackles Michael back into the boys restroom. Pushing back his friends as if she were a 300 pound linebacker. She stands back up. They are in stunned silence. As soon as Zoey hears the door close behind her. She jumps for the attack!
Zoey slams the back of her fist into the chest of Michael’s tall friend. Flinging him into the mirror. The mirror shatters falling to the floor along with the boy. The Stockier one charges her. She grabs him by the face Raising him off the ground. He cries out as she squeezes his head like a sponge then lets him fall to his knees. Zoey grabs his collar with one hand swinging him to the side leaving only Michael. Once again they stand toe to toe. She steps forward. Cocking back her arm. Her eyes turn bright green. Michael’s hands are up guarding his face. David grabs her arm.”Zoey Bennett!” The principle yells behind David. She turns around. David sees her glowing eyes for a second. Until she realizes what she has done. Her eyes fade, simmering her curdling blood.
Principle Ward points his stubby finger at Zoey. Using his most authoritative voice. “You get to the nurses office. Now!” Then directs his attention at David. “Are you okay?” Knowing how the school feels towards David. The tone of voice is softer, and more lenient. He helps the three boys up. Can you all walk? They groan, heading out the door. Security escorts them to the Nurses station. David fills the principle in on what happened. As they head there themselves.
The two boys who were thrown like rag dolls are resting in beds. The tall one has a bruised sternum. The stocky one a serious migraine, but they’ll be fine. David is sitting next to Zoey. Michael is sitting in the principles office. David’s head is filled with questions for Zoey. David’s almost positive he saw her eyes glow. He doesn’t 100% trust what he saw due to everything that was happening, but there’s no denying her strength.
He stares at her the whole time unsure of what to say until he finally mutters, “Are you okay?” She stares at the ceiling ignoring him for a few seconds. “I’m probably going to be grounded until I move out. I’m also going to be expelled. Other then that… terrific.” She says with no emotion without removing her eyes from the ceiling. David looks at the ground. “Do you hate me?” Zoey turns her head toward him. “No David, I don’t hate you.” He looks at her with puppy dog eyes. “Can we still be friends?”
Principle Ward walks in the room. “Your all in serious trouble. I’ve called all your parents. They are not pleased. Not one bit.” David interrupts the principle’s speech. “Sir they started it.” He says trying to stand. “David sit down. Now I understand this was self defense but what exactly were you thinking Zoey. These young men could have really injured you.” David interjects once more. “Nuh-uh, she’s stronger then she looks.” Zoey darts a dirty look. He’s trying to butter up the principle to notice.
“Yeah, no kidding. There’s a lot of damage in the bathroom to prove it. Not to mention the fact their parents are taking them to urgent care. This situation is exactly why we have security. Zoey your suspended for a week. I’ll arrange for your parents to pick up your school work tomorrow. David your excused also due to your injuries. Your parents can also pick up your school work tomorrow. You took some serious licks. We will decide if these two young men will remain students here. We can’t have vandals and derelicts running around at this school.” Your parents are waiting to pick you up outside Zoey. David your parents will be here in a half an hour.”
She walks out to the lobby. Her parents are filling out forms. One for her release and another for her suspension. Her posture slouches after seeing her fathers disapproving face. During the car ride home Zoey explains everything that happened. About the boy she met on the bus today who is bullied often. She went into graphic detail of how they beat him up. Sam appeared cold. Showing no signs of empathy for David. His concern was only Zoey using her power in public. “It wasn’t even in public. No one saw.”
He slams his palm against the steering wheel. You broke a boys ribs with your bare hand, and could have given the other one brain damage. You know what you’re capable of.” Tears of frustration run down her face. “You didn’t see what they did to him!” She yells. “I don’t care… I mean I do… Look high school is hard, but then you move on. I care about you! You’re my concern. They finally make it home.
She gets out and slams the door. “I have powers! I’m an alien!” Zoey screams until Sam runs over covering her mouth. She swats his hand away. “What’s the point of existing if I can’t be who I am.” He leans back exasperated. “Oh Jesus Christ. Stop being so dramatic. That’s not what I’m saying at all. You can be who you are. Just don’t use your powers. That’s it.”
“Who I am isn’t somebody that lets someone else get stomped half to death because they were being their authentic self. That’s who I am.” Her father takes a step back. “What is Michael Jordan without basketball or Tiger Woods without golf?” Sam leans against his ford truck. His eyes tear up, but wipes them before they role down his cheek. “Come here. You’re absolutely right.” Sam hugs his daughter tight. She reluctantly hugs him back. But gives in and squeezes back. “I’m proud of you. I really am. Come inside.”
She sits down and Sam opens the fridge pulling out two beers. He slides one across the table. “Are you serious?” He nods and smiles. “Don’t tell your mom.” Sam kicks his feet up on the chair next to him. “I think your old man’s not too bright. Because it just occurred to me how grown up you are. It truly wasn’t my intention to make you… hide who you are.” Zoey takes a big gulp of her beer. Her father looks at Zoey intensely. “I don’t want you to ever feel like you’re an alien in your own home. So from now on. While your on this property. You’re free to use your powers, within’ limitation. You can not use them outside the perimeters of this house. Not because we are ashamed of you. If you learned anything today. It’s that if you fall out of the hierarchy of this world. Your going to take a hard fall. One you might not bounce back from. For this David, for being a geek. He get’s bullied. For you, Scientists will lock you up. Give you all kinds of sedatives. Maybe even dissect you. I’m not telling you this to scare you. I’m telling you this to protect you.”
Zoey sits up straight and tells him that she understands and will respect his wishes. She jumps up and throws her arms around her father, then kisses him on the cheek. In return he kisses her cheek.
“Now grab another beer. Then brush your teeth. Your mom’s coming home in a few hours and she’s going to really lay into you. So you’re probably going to need it. In fact I have to sleep with that tonight so grab me one too.” She chuckles and takes two more beers out of the fridge. Zoey hands him the beer. He grabs her arm before she sits back down. I really hate to ask this. But you’re not so grown you’re having sex are you?” She gasps. “Dad!” Sam shrugs. “No sex. you aren’t not that grown. There’s one more thing. You need to talk this David boy into keeping his mouth shut.”
End of Issue #2
I hope you guys really enjoyed this week of Writing Wednesday. It was a lot of fun to make. Also shout out to my friend’s artistic talents for drawing and inking the picture above to give you guys an idea of what she will look like. Please Share with your friends via social media. Issue #3 is on its way. Featuring the villain James from a short story I wrote called Metamorphosis. Here’s the link to that one plus issue #1. Thank you!