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“James, Bex.” Sarah’s voice called from the kitchen. “Breakfast’s up in five. Finish getting ready!”
“Kay!” James shouted back, his head turning momentarily towards his bedroom door, before returning his attention to the mirrored door of his closet. He watched himself closely, holding onto the handle as firmly as he could. “Okay,” he mumbled under his breath. “Now then. Fly. Go on.” He tried to will himself upwards off the ground. Nothing. He groaned, then tried again, thinking of air and floating things and just about anything he thought might help. In spite of this, his feet remained very firmly planted to the ground.
“James,” Sarah called once more. “Grub’s up! C’mon, we’re gonna be late!”
James sighed, returning his attention to the door.
“Coming!” He shouted back, letting go of the dresser handle and taking a step towards his door. He let out a little yelp of surprise as his foot came down on nothing but air. He tipped forwards, a feeling disorientingly similar to falling, and threw out his arms to stabilize himself. He wobbled slightly for a few moments, before righting himself. “O-okay,” he muttered. “So that wasn’t a dream. I really am flying right now. Good to know.” He reached behind himself, grasping for the handle of his cabinet and using it to push himself back down onto the ground. “Now I just need to figure out how to land.”
“James!” Came Sarah’s voice again. “Last warning! Come eat your breakfast or I’m coming in there to drag you out here myself!”
“Right, sorry,” James replied with a small sigh, making his way through the door towards the kitchen. “Be right there.”
Casper made his way to the school by a roundabout route that morning, the same as he had done the morning before and all the mornings of the last school week, taking a different route each time. He figured he may as well use his morning commute to try and find bad people for Tasha. It wasn’t a task he relished in any particular fashion, searching specifically for pockets of negative emotion. Quite the opposite, in fact. But he had made a promise, and Tasha didn’t really like to be kept waiting.
Casper extended his power out with a groan, feeling his personal bubble of awareness expand to it’s maximum range. Immediately, he felt minds colliding with his psyche by the dozen, from the thankfully neutral emotions of most early morning commuters, to the many spots of varied color littered all throughout the nearby buildings. He had been prepared for it, had known it was coming, and still the wave of input threatened to overwhelm him. He held on tight, letting the storm front of it break over him. He let out a small sigh of relief as it began to subside, his mind acclimating slowly to the influx. With a concentrated effort, he slowly began trying to filter out the neutral emotions from the crowd, letting them fade to white noise in his mind. It helped, in a way, having a backdrop of calm, almost bored people all around; it gave him something to anchor himself to. That done, Casper resumed his journey towards the school, his attention focused on the buildings that littered his side of the street. Cafe’s, alleyways, and apartment buildings.
The method wasn’t perfect. Even at his maximum range, Casper couldn’t fit whole multi-story buildings within his perception, but it functioned well enough for the first three stories or so. This was simply the fastest way of searching he’d come up with thus far.
The first three blocks or so were largely uneventful, littered with the occasional spot of misery or fear, but nothing of the sort that he thought might indicate a crime. The lack of activity wasn’t too much of a surprise to him. It usually took him days of searching like this to find a lead. He began to hum slightly to himself as he walked, trying to stave off the ever present boredom of the morning commuters in some small way, not that it really helped at all.
It was after about twenty minutes of this, that something finally caught Casper’s attention. A mind, male, if he’d had to guess by the color of it, although guessing like that wasn’t exactly perfect. He’d thought Tasha was a boy the first time he felt her mind. The feelings Casper got from this man were an odd mix. Pleasure, power, that strange, icky sort of warmth that adults seemed to feel when they liked someone. All of it seemed to be tinged by something else that Casper couldn’t quite define. He glanced up at the source, a second story window on a nearby apartment complex. The window was closed, the curtains drawn. He’d felt that sort of feeling before, once or twice, and the reason for it was relatively easy for him to discern. What caught his attention, however, was the other mind in the space, located perhaps half a foot beneath the first, and presumably the object of their attentions.
Casper almost dismissed it at first, pushing it into the back of his mind along with the commuters. It seemed just as bored as they were. He spared a small chuckle at the first mind’s apparent inability to satisfy, and was about to move on, when a small facet of the second mind caught his attention. Immediately, he pulled his power back from the room, feeling a little sick, and glanced around, searching for the address of the building. He looked back towards the window, noting the spacing of it for future reference. He dug his phone out of his pocket and began typing in a text.
‘Tasha, come see me after school, okay? I’ve found one. It’s urgent.’
The response came within a minute.
‘Good job, Cas! I knew you could do it!’
Casper looked at the phone screen blankly for a few moments, not sure how to take that, then he shook himself. He pocketed his phone and began pulling his power back towards himself as best he could. He spared the window one last glance before he set off, feeling himself shudder ever so slightly in disgust.
He set off towards school at a jog, not wanting to be late.
James struggled to keep his mind on classes that day. He found his thoughts floating back every few moments to the idea of flight, at once both incredibly scary and the coolest thing he’d ever experienced.
One small thing niggled at him, and it was something he found hard to dismiss. He’d never heard of anyone with powers before, flight or otherwise. It seemed ridiculous to think he might be the only one; an almost laughable idea, in fact. But if he wasn’t the first, then why hadn’t he ever heard of anyone else who could do things? Where were they all? What had happened to them? Over the day, James looked at the problem from every angle he could think of and every time, he came to the same conclusion. He needed to keep this a secret.
The biggest problem with that, of course, was control. James was acutely aware that he had yet to activate this strange new power willingly, and that meant he could possibly just start floating up into the air without a moment’s notice, which wasn’t the sort of thing he expected to keep secret. He needed to practice, and to do it in a place where neither his parents, nor anyone else, for that matter, would be likely to see. That, unfortunately, ruled out his house. His father had never really mastered the delicate art of knocking before entering his children’s rooms. James sighed. He supposed he’d just have to find a place, then.
At lunch, he went to his locker and retrieved his phone, sending his parents a quick message.
‘I got invited to go see a movie with friends after school. Can I take a bus home?’
He lay the phone down and set about retrieving his lunch while he waited for the reply. It didn’t take his mother long.
‘Of course, sweetie. You have fun and make sure to get home safe.’
James read the message with a small sigh, wondering how hard it had been for his mother to send it, then pushed the idea out of his mind. There was nothing he could do to fix that particular problem at the moment anyway.
He placed his phone back in his bag and went off to eat his lunch, deciding to track down Casper again and make sure he had something to eat today. He found him without too much issue, but the other boy seemed just as preoccupied as he felt, staring up at the clouds, unblinking. They sat together in silence, content for the moment not to pry, and picked at the contents of James’ lunchbox. Casper had apparently forgotten his again.
Later, after school had ended, James set off. He had a few locations in mind, a few that might make good practice spots. The closest he could think of, however, was a small alleyway on the back end of the school campus. Some architectural misstep in the surrounding cityscape had led to the buildings around it being packed just a little too closely together, making it harder to fit roads in between them. Fortunately, that meant that this particular alleyway was distanced somewhat from the bustle of the main city streets.
James approached the edge of the alleyway quietly, grasping onto the links of the thick, interlocking wire fence that separated the school from the outside world, and climbing them with relative ease. He plopped himself unceremoniously down on the hard concrete floor of the alleyway, and set to work, digging in his bag for the thick, winter jumper that his mother made him keep in there constantly. He wrapped one sleeve around his waist and made a simple knot, before looping the other sleeve through the wire links of the fence. He gave it a few tugs, satisfying himself that he was well and truly tethered to the ground, before setting to work attempting to fly.
It was slow work, and James was at it for a solid ten minutes before anything interesting happened. After a few dozen failed attempts, he tried to remember what he’d done that morning, thinking of how he’d tried to walk, then found himself hoisted into the air. He folded his arms for a moment, it wasn’t much to go on. Well, he decided with a shrug, he might as well give it a go. Closing his eyes, James began trying to replicate the feel of the morning’s event, shifting his weight from one foot to the other in simulation of walking. The effect was immediate, James felt a momentary hard jolt against his midsection, a great tightness around his waist, then there was a tearing sound, and the pressure lessened slightly. He opened his eyes, only a little surprised to find himself in the air. What was more shocking, however, was how high up he was. He hung, suspended, perhaps twenty feet up in the air. It looked like the jumper hadn’t been sturdy enough to tether him down. Belatedly, he realized that the pressure against his midsection was his jumper sleeve, the knot pulled tight around him by the force of his separation from the ground. He began trying to loosen it, cursing a little under his breath. How was he going to explain the damaged clothing to his mother?
“H-hey,” came a voice from below, stopping James in his tracks. “A-are you… flying?” He spun in the air, turning to face the source of the sound, before realizing how exposed his face was, and slapping his hands up to cover it with a yelp. The speaker was a girl, a few years older than him, by the looks of it, every inch of exposed skin covered by a mottled pattern of bruises and sunburn.
“N-no!” He squeaked between his fingers. “I-I’m practicing a magic trick!”
The girl, surprisingly, laughed.
“Nah, that’s bull,” she chuckled. “You’re totally flying. That’s cool though, I promise I won’t tell.”
“B-but I’m not flying!” James protested. “R-really! I-It’s f-for a play!”
The girl laughed a little harder at that.
“Kid,” she chortled. “Did anyone ever tell you you’re a terrible liar? It’s okay, though, you don’t need to worry. I’m special too, you know.”
This proclamation caught James off guard. He hadn’t been sure what to expect, but it hadn’t been that.
“S-special?” He asked. “H-how?”
The girl shrugged, squaring her shoulders, before crouching down momentarily and launching herself across the alleyway towards the fence in a standing leap. A leap that carried her at least thirty feet. The girl had probably been aiming to land on top of the fence in a crouch, but her foot caught on the top of it, and she tripped, toppling off the fence with a squeal and landing with a thud in the grass on the other side. James stared at the girl, wide eyed as she stood up, blushing a furious red with embarrassment, and dusted herself off.
“My name’s Tasha,” she muttered, somewhat deflated. “I have super strength, and if you ever tell anyone what just happened, I’ll thump you.”
Enjoyed this chapter as always, though the writing comes off as overly expository at times, mostly when in Casper’s point of view. Admittedly that’s likely because he has to deal with sensing others’ emotions on top of his other physical senses, though. I also greatly enjoyed Tasha’s introduction to James as well as her declaration of super strength; it may seem silly given the gradual shift in societal norms, but it delights me to no end every time a content creator bestows strength or other physical talents on their non-male (including cisfemale) characters.
By the way, I’m really liking the way you portray James’ relationship with his mum. It’s wonderfully bittersweet and I’m looking forward to seeing how James will interact with his parents as he comes into his flight abilities.
I see the cast is coalescing.