Hey guys, this is just a little note from me to let you know about a few changes I am making to the site. My resolution for the new year is to maintain a more consistent weekly update schedule so that you guys don’t have to wait so long for content, so from now on, the site will be updating on or around the Monday/Tuesday of every week (It will be either Monday or Tuesday for some of you because of time zones.)
Additionally, I have decided to add a bonus chapter every month focused on the perspective of a character that you guys choose. These may be origin stories, background info, battle scenes, or even just slice of life stuff. To assist with this, I have set up a page in the site menu where people can vote for any character I have tagged in one of my chapters. I had been intending to limit these votes to my followers as a way of keeping track of the novel’s popularity through time while still rewarding you guys rather than taking stuff away. I have since changed my mind on that because it felt a little alienating, so now anyone can vote regardless of whether they have followed.
The two boys walked together in an awkward silence, neither one entirely sure of what they were supposed to say. James didn’t like the idea that the other boy could tell what he was feeling. It made him nervous, and the fact that he knew Casper could probably feel that nervousness wasn’t helping. A small part of him cursed the thin width of the sidewalk that prevented him from standing a little further out from the other boy without it being obvious. A larger part of him wished he’d played it a little cooler back in the alleyway.
“… So-” James began eventually, before Casper cut him off.
“You’re probably wondering if I’ve figured out what happened to you,” he said bluntly. “Just gonna let you know, I haven’t, and I’m not really planning on trying very hard to find out. I have a hunch, but I’m not gonna follow it. It’s your thing to deal with, okay?”
“Uhh, okay.” James replied, unsure what else to say.
“Okay, good.” The other boy nodded. The two walked in silence for a few seconds, until Casper spoke again, sounding annoyed. “Can you stop that?”
“Stop what?” James asked, a little helplessly.
“Stop feeling so weird and awkward,” Casper groaned. “It makes talking to you super hard!”
“I’m sorry,” said James, raising his hands in aimless placation. “But it’s kinda hard when you…” He tried to figure out how best to put it for a few moments, then groaned, putting a hand over his eyes. “Okay look. You find out that your new friend can tell what you’re feeling every second, right at a time when you’re kinda going through some stuff, and obviously, that makes you feel kinda awkward around him, and you know he can tell that you feel awkward, so you start feeling awkward about feeling awkward and after a few loops of that, you can’t really stop anymore!”
“What?” Casper asked, an eyebrow raised. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. You make it sound like I’m judging you for feeling things.”
“Well you kind of are, aren’t you?” James retorted, a little irritated. “I mean, you were judging me for feeling awkward about you just a few seconds ago.”
“Well, yeah,” Casper muttered. “But that was only cuz there’s no reason to feel awkward about me.”
“Well I kinda think there is,” James snapped, fast approaching something akin to anger. “I had a really bad thing happen and I didn’t want anyone to know about it and then you come along and I can’t even hide it from you when something makes me feel bad!”
Casper stopped walking and gazed at James, a stricken look on his face.
“Does… does this mean we can’t really be friends anymore?” The boy asked, his voice trembling just a little. “I… I’d really like to keep being friends… if it’s okay… I d-don’t really have many and it’s nice having someone to talk to and…” He trailed off into silence.
It was painfully obvious that Casper was holding back tears. James gazed at him stonily for a few moments, his arms folded, then let out a long sigh.
“Yes, we’re still friends, Casper,” he grumbled eventually. “But you can’t pretend this doesn’t change stuff a little. I mean, for starters, why the heck did you only start talking to me after I came back to school, huh? If you’ve been able to feel how I felt every day, then why did you only start talking to me after I started feeling worse, huh? How am I supposed to feel, when by the looks of things, I’m pretty sure you only started trying to be my friend out of pity!”
“Pity?” Casper asked quietly, eyes glistening. “James, I got my powers after my dad got angry one night and broke my arm. I spent three whole months after that trying not to drown in other people’s feelings and thinking I was going crazy. I don’t do pity, James, cuz no matter what happened to you, I’m pretty sure that I have it worse.” That made James stop, he opened his mouth, unsure of what to say, but Casper wasn’t done, he continued, his voice rising steadily in pitch. “And yeah, I came to find you cuz you felt sadder than you used to, and yeah, maybe I did want to help you to feel better. You can feel whatever you want to feel about that, but I’m not gonna apologise for trying to make someone feel better when they’re sad!”
Casper was genuinely crying now, angry tears sliding slowly down his face. On one side, James noticed, the tears ran clear. On the other, however, the moisture picked something up off of the boy’s face, turning a pale, pinkish brown, the same color as Casper’s skin. James suddenly felt very small. He stared at the ground, cheeks red, hands clenched at his sides.
“… Sorry.” He muttered eventually, trying his best to mean it. “I… I was being a doof. Sorry.”
Casper wiped his eyes on his sleeve.
“If you start feeling bad for me, I swear-”
“I don’t,” James forestalled him, holding a hand up placatingly. “I feel bad cuz I said stupid stuff, not cuz of anything happening with-” he gave up with a groan. “Look, do you wanna go to my place and watch bad anime for a couple hours? This is way too heavy and I wanna just zone out for a while, you know?”
Casper nodded, just a little shakily.
“Y-yeah, that’d be good. Do you have any that aren’t in japanese?”
“I have some with subtitles.”
“God,” Casper groaned as they began walking again. “Being friends with you is gonna suck.”
The girl ran for what felt like miles. One advantage her power offered her, she had found, was endurance. Perhaps her super strength extended to her lungs and heart as well, perhaps it was something else. Whatever the cause, it did not matter. For now, she was running.
After what felt like an age, Tasha began to tire, and her flat sprint slowly petered down to a stop. She came to rest in an alleyway, clutching her knees and panting slightly with an exertion she rarely felt any more.
“It’s okay, Tasha,” she muttered to herself between gasps, trying to settle her racing mind. “It was just a gun. Just a gunholyshitthatguyhadagun!”
She straightened, jogging on the spot and waving her hands by her side in an attempt at dispersing the nervous energy.
“It’s okay! Calm down, Tash, you got this,” she took a deep breath. “Okay. So they had a gun. And that dude didn’t even flinch when I broke his hand, and they were all staring at me like creepy psycho vampire people. It’s okay, I can deal.” She nodded to herself, and took another deep breath.
It wasn’t working. Tasha started pacing the length of the alleyway, hands clenching and unclenching by the moment against the tension.
“Everything is juuuuuust fine! You’re safe, and strong, and nobody can stand up to you. You got this.” Tasha took another long deep breath, closed her eyes and tried to force herself to be calm through sheer force of will.
It didn’t work, so she punched a dumpster, letting out a bark of anger and frustration. The dumpster rocked back momentarily and she felt the impact ring through her arm, only a little painful. The violence helped, just a little, so she punched again, harder this time. The resulting clang rustled a few birds from their perches on a nearby rooftop. She punched it again, driving her fist into the thing with all the force she could muster and was rewarded with the satisfying feeling of the metal giving way under her knuckles. When she pulled her fist back, she noticed the dumpster now bore a slight dent in the rough shape of her fist.
Looking at the dent, Tasha felt something ping in the back of her mind, an idea. She stared at it for a while, letting her anxiety slowly drain away, to be replaced with excitement. She chuckled, and the chuckle became a deep belly laugh. She raised her face to the sky and cackled for all she was worth, then she set off at a run, trying to figure out where she was before reorienting and setting off towards her new destination.
Samson stayed with Marcus for a few hours until the pain began to fade, the younger man eventually laying back against the medical bed and falling into a fitful sleep. Samson wasn’t surprised. The boy had been working himself to the bone in the last few weeks in his attempts to acclimatize to his new position. He suppressed a chuckle that it had taken a severe injury just to get the kid to take a nap.
Samson struggled to think of Marcus as his sibling, much as he struggled to think of any of their new members as such. He was grateful to Father, and the family as a whole for saving the child that he had been and giving him this new life that he cherished, but he had always had difficulty thinking of them as his ‘family’ in the way that Marcus did. The life he had led prior to his membership here had not been exactly conducive to his idea of families as particularly loving things. Samson suspected that Father knew this about him, thought that was probably why he had been asked to select someone to replace him as the leader here. Ah well, if Father only wanted to have true believers in charge, Samson couldn’t really bring himself to blame the man for it. Despite the fact that he did not really consider him ‘family,’ he did still love the man, in his way.
Samson left Marcus to his rest, and left the room, sliding the door open and closing it behind him as quietly as he could. He took out his phone, unlocked it, and dialed in a number. He pressed the call button, raised the phone to his ear, and waited. The man on the other end of the line picked up before the third ring.
“Hello, Samson, good to hear from you,” the voice spoke in that same gentle tone that he remembered. Even hearing it over the phone, Samson found it very calming. He smiled. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your call? Is your new leader struggling to acclimatize to the role?”
“No, nothing like that,” Samson replied, his tone unconsciously shifting to match the other man’s natural gentleness. “Marcus is doing just fine. Some growing pains, but that’s to be expected for a kid his age in a role like this.”
“Ah, well, I am glad to hear that,” the voice replied, and Samson could almost hear the smile behind the words. “What is it that I can do for you then, my son?”
“I wanted to report an incident that I thought would interest you,” Samson answered. “A girl was poking around today, fourteen or fifteen, if I had to guess. We scared her off.”
“I see,” the voice was curious now, its tone elevated ever so slightly. “What makes her worth commenting on?”
“She broke Marcus’ hand,” Samson said simply. “With her fingers. No tools or anything, just grip strength.”
“Ah,” the voice said, understanding. “You think she might be special, then.”
“I thought you might want to know about it, yes.”
“You said she was around fifteen, correct?” The voice asked. Before he could respond, it continued. “That’s a little older than I normally accept in a new family member, but I suppose an exception could be made. Would you have said she was attractive?”
“Hard to say,” Samson shrugged. “Under all the bruises and sun damage, I would struggle to even say what race she was, and her teeth looked a little damaged.”
“I see,” the voice sounded disappointed. “It would be better if she was naturally pretty, my touch can only fix so much, you know. Still, I had best take a look. Thank you for telling me this, my son.”
“You’re welcome, Father.” Samson replied.