Here's a little snippet of a story born from an idea for a superhero book I had a long time ago. I'm not sure the superhero book will ever get written, but I like this story. It's much shorter than the others. It's also a little rougher because I didn't get the chance to pass it off to my beloved alpha reader who is smart and amazing and wonderful. Be jealous! I have the best husband. ;) He's also an excellent writer in his own right.
The Scarlet Ibis
Are you really leaving me a voicemail? I’m not going to check this. No one leaves voicemail. Hang up. Text me. Welcome to the new century.
“Very funny, Tabs. If you’d answer my texts I wouldn’t be forced to resort to anachronisms. Use your phone to look that word up. Would you please cut this shit out and come by?”
TABS WHERE R U?
TABS THIS IS GETTING OLD.
HOLY SHIT, TABS! R U OK?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
I was impressed my phone had survived the incident. That’s what the media called it. Only, you know, with caps. The Incident. (Remember to link to Incident Wiki here. Too tired to fuck with right now.) Kind of wish my phone hadn’t survived. I could pretend not to remember phone numbers and not have to talk to people who hadn’t wanted to talk to me in months or years. (Thinking of you here, Mom, if you read this.)
Three months of military hospitals and weird tests and hourly reminders not to talk to anyone about what had occurred had totally gotten old. Doctor Taft gave me this POS laptop to send emails on. Only, I didn’t have full net access. No sending things or posting things without them being vetted. I can read all I want. I can watch some stuff. Nothing about The Incident.
Fuck it. It wasn’t a damned incident like a dam breaking or train wreck. No, it had been an attack by this group of weird people in costumes. COSTUMES! Halloween costumes of some weird throwback group from a comic or anime or something. I don’t know. I know it ruined Homecoming. Normally I wouldn’t give a damn, but I’d lined up a date. And turned 21. Most importantly, my date had made it clear she was happy to help with the whole virginity issue I had. (Should I delete this? Dunno. Whatever. No getting laid now. Not with…)
I slammed the lid down on the laptop. Not like I had real privacy, but I guess the illusion made me feel better.
“The weathers cooperating. Did you still want to walk in the park?”
Someone had finally decided it would be ok to let me get out of the room. There may have been some coercion involved. What else could I do? I’d been stuck inside for most of the last three months. I shoved away the nurse’s help to get out of bed and glowered as she pushed the wheelchair forward.
“There are rules, Miss Puckett.”
“So many fucking rules. Any word on when my government will stop holding me illegally and let me go home?” The nurse didn’t speak as she draped a blanket over my lap. “So many fucking constitutional violations.” No one seemed to care.
She wheeled me down grey corridors to a grey and white world. The only color I missed out here was the blue sky. Instead I saw a lovely shade of grey and the white clouds bunching up on it really popped.
“Do you think it will start snowing?” I asked, doing my best to sound calm. Calm and bored. The nurse crouched down and adjusted my blanket again. I slapped her hand away and in that instant of contact I felt two things. The first was a small scrap of paper pressed into my palm. The second was a quick sting. My hand jerked back and she winked at me before standing.
“I’ll be back in a minute.”
She left me there and I watched the sky. Did I want to see what she’d done? Did I want to read the note? Eventually I looked down at the note in my hand and nearly fell from my stupid wheelchair. Red ink. Red ink and green paper and I saw color for the first time in three months.
My hand curved protectively around the paper. No one had better bother me now. I thought, maybe, my eyes were better, but when I dared look away from the arresting sight of color I saw the grey world all around me once more.
12:05 AM. We know what you can do. Come to the back gate. I’ll be waiting.
“Miss Puckett? Is everything ok?”
No, everything wasn’t fucking ok. My hands shook as I tucked them under the blanket. I couldn’t stop my tears. Color. Even if only on a single scrap of paper. My entire world had been the same room, the same greyscale for so long I couldn’t handle it. The nurse wheeled me back inside as my body shook with suppressed sobs.
“You have to get ahold of yourself, Miss Puckett. I can’t keep the doctors from noticing. Can you?”
As if I were not the queen of cool? I used the blanket to wipe my eyes. I know they were still red, but I could blame that on the cold. In the room, the nurse helped me to bed and took the note from my hand. My fingers had still gripped it protectively, but she pried them loose. Once in bed, she kissed my forehead. Weird. Well, human contact was a nice thing I supposed.
By ten I could barely wait. My foot twitched under the heavy blankets and the wires hooking me to machines swayed in the air. I saw the nurse again twice. Both times when I should have been given the medicine to settle me down. She did it under the watchful eye of an armed guard, but I could feel she gave me something different.
I pretended sleep for every bed check. The rhythm of the floor was well known to me by now. I could tell by the sound of their feet who was on duty. So, I knew when midnight came. Final bed check until the next dose of medicine at two. I heard the duty nurse tell someone else, the guard, that I appeared restless. My limbs twitched, I couldn’t stop them.
At first, I feared she’d decide to give me a sedative. Not holding my breath became a problem and would she decide my forced breathing was fake? I didn’t relax until she left. I opened one eye and peered at the clock on the wall.
12:03. How long would it take to reach the back gate? Did I even know where to go to get to the gate? Did I have to follow the fence? Fuck.
“Fuck it,” I whispered to the cameras.
The IV, wires, electrodes collapsed as my body stopped being attached to them. I struggled to separate from the bed as the alarms went off. Cautious steps took me to the window and I heard more alarms going off. The wall tickled as I went through it. Should I try to get to the ground? Would anyone see me?
Lowering myself would take time so I walked through the air. It felt like walking along the bottom of a lake. Pushing through something, softness underfoot, a little disorienting. From this height, at least, I could see the gate. Nighttime was the same color grey as the day, a few shades darker, I supposed. Light flashed on the road near the unused back gate. I sank down to the ground, letting the slight tug of the Earth pull me home.
“Impressive, Miss Puckett.”
The nurse. She wasn’t dressed in scrubs this time. Her costume, under a long coat, reminded me of the ridiculous outfits worn by those at The Incident. My recognition must have been caught even without my having a solid body.
“Miss Puckett, I assure you, we don’t want to hurt you. We only want you to come hear us out.” She glanced over my shoulder. The alarms were as loud as they’d been all along, but it seemed they held a new urgency to their tone. “If you’d rather continue to be a prisoner then return to the hospital.”
“You made me like this,” I hissed.
“I wasn’t there. Miss Puckett. Natalie, just because Emperor Duncan takes care-“
“Ah, fuck. Natalie, either come with me and learn both sides or go back.”
“You let me see color.” I looked over my shoulder. Movement in the dark couldn’t be hidden from me.
“We can do more than that, Natalie.”
“I don’t want to go back to being some hospital experiment.”
“I give you my word, Natalie. You’ll be free to go whenever you want.”
“What’s your word worth?”
More footsteps in the dark. I could hear two trucks as well.
“Natalie, I’m the Scarlet Ibis and I always keep my word.”
Oh, motherdamnedfucker. The Scarlet Ibis was enemy number one. Everyone knew of her and that she wanted to bring down the Emperor. Her bounty was massive. I could live however I wanted if I turned her in.
“No, you could spend the rest of your life here. Studied until they learned what they could and dissected once they were done.” And, apparently the rumors about her being a mind reader were true. “Yes or no, Natalie?”
Maybe so long trapped in a hospital bed made me weak. Tricked. But…there she stood. So much color on her and I wanted to see more than grey. She knew when I made my decision. I watched her throw off the coat she wore and wanted to weep at the assault on my eyes. Scarlet feathers ran down her head to her back where wings spread.
I threw myself into the sky after her.