Escapism: 3.3

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Father:

“I’m sorry, Father. She got away from us.” Marcus stared at the ground as he spoke, apparently unable to bring himself to look upon his father’s face.

“I see,” he replied, his voice even, deciding to let the boy stew in his remorse for the time being. “Can you tell me how she got away?”

Marcus nodded, his body slumping slightly in his seat as he began to recite the events of the night passed.

“She had a friend,” He mumbled. “We never saw them, but they were blasting the building with something. Lara says it was like some kind of air cannon. She’s not doing too well. It popped one of her ear drums. Samson took the girl hostage, but she got the drop on him, punched his ribs in, damn near killed him. Lara blasted her out the window and she ran. She was off the street before I caught up. The hunter says her scent just disappears up into the air. Nothing he can do.” His recitation over, the boy slumped back in his chair, ashamed. A younger sister stepped forward and placed a hand on his shoulder, reassuring.

Father sat in thought for a moment, his fingers tented together against his lips. The rest of his children were there as well, the boys and girls of the New York branch, all staring towards either him or Marcus. Some of the newer ones were apprehensive. The older ones seemed merely ashamed. He suppressed a smile. His children didn’t like disappointing him.

On the whole, however, Father was not disappointed. His children had lost the girl, that was true. But by the sound of it, they had found him a much more intriguing possibility than a lone teenager with super strength. An outsider who could make blasts of air like Lara’s; someone who could whisk a wounded girl off the face of the earth and up into the sky. Either power had potential, and if it was the same person, then all the better. If it was a child, then that meant a new potential member of his family, and if it was an adult, then it was good that they had brought him in. Better to deal with dangerous people himself.

He made his decision after a time, and raised his head towards his shamed son.

“I am not angry, Marcus,” he said, his voice gentle. “I know you did what you could.”

There was a collective sigh around the room from his assembled children, some relieved, some grateful. Marcus nodded, still refusing to look towards his father. A drop of liquid trailed down from the boy’s eye, traveling along his downturned nose, before falling to the floor. Father sighed. He didn’t like his children crying for him. There was no helping it. He used his power, shaping it into a bubble around himself, and pressing it out into the room at large.

The effect was immediate. His children began to smile, the residual fear fading slowly from their faces, the harsh lines fading from their cheeks as the tension drained away. Marcus shuddered in his seat, drawing in a sharp breath as his mind was wrenched off its tracks. He raised his tear stained face towards his father, and let out a small laugh, quiet, joyous.

“T-thank you, Father.” Marcus murmured, absent the shame of his prior moments, his tone drawn back to the calm lightness of his euphoria. “I-I don’t deserve it.”

Father shook his head in a single, small movement, and allowed himself a smile. He stood from his seat and crossed the distance to his wayward son. The boy gazed up at him, his expression one of purest wonderment. He placed a hand on either of Marcus’ cheeks, and gently brought the boy’s head forwards, resting his forehead against his stomach. Marcus giggled.

“No crying, little one.” He murmured, one hand rising to stroke the boy’s hair. “You know your father hates it when you cry.” Marcus nodded, taking another sharp breath through his nose as his body slowly reoriented away from his earlier remorse.

Father chuckled lightly to himself at that.

“That’s my boy.” They all stood like that for a long time, the father simply letting his children bask in the warmth of his light, none of them daring to move, lest their wondrous moment be broken. As an added gift, he reached his touch out into Marcus’ form, and began to slowly mend the fractured bones of the boy’s hand.

The magnanimous father allowed his children to warm themselves for a time, before withdrawing his light back into himself. His family gazed at him from every corner of the room, still basking in the slowly receding joy of his presence.

“Now,” he murmured, glancing around his assembled young until he found a face that caught his fancy, and gesturing her forwards. “Can you take me to your big brother and sister so that I can heal them?”

The girl nodded, her face splitting into a wide grin as she stepped forward. He held out a hand, and she took it with her own, leading him from the room.

He healed his two broken children first, before retiring with the girl that he had chosen. He remembered her face from the day that he had shaped it. Elise. The name that he had given her made him smile as he recalled it. He let her bask in him for a time after, before setting out on his new mission, refreshed.

Family was such a beautiful thing.


Casper:

The boy sat cross legged on the floor, his hands held together in his lap, trying to bring his thoughts to a calm. Even with his eyes closed, his power told him that the old witch was there, just a few feet away, her mind just a touch amused. That did not help. He didn’t like being laughed at, even in other people’s minds. Even without her input, calm would have been a tall order. He had too many thoughts surging together in the back of his mind, most of them too large and too recent to be so easily put aside. He sat like that in silence for what felt like an hour, before he sighed.

“Are you sure there isn’t another way?” He asked, trying to keep his tone from a whine.

“Not if you keep refusing to tell me your power.” Freja answered, her tone neutral, despite her growing amusement. Not for the first time, he tried to shrink his bubble tight enough around himself to exclude her. Nothing. It was wrapped as close in as it would go. “If you wanna find out if you have magic, you need to access your spells, and that means meditating.” She allowed herself a chuckle at that. “It’s okay to take as long as you like. I charge by the hour, after all.”

Casper groaned.

“Calm is haaaard, though,” he grumbled. “I don’t even know what I’m aiming for!”

“You’ll know it when you find it,” she replied after only a moment’s hesitation. “Trust me. It just takes a little time to make it click in your head. Gets easier after the first time, when you know what you’re looking for.” She paused for a moment, then shrugged. “Here, I’ll show you.”

Casper opened his eyes, watching as the older woman set herself creakily down on the mat, mirroring his pose, and closed her eyes.

“First thing you do is clear your mind,” she murmured, repeating her earlier explanation almost verbatim. “And not in that hollywood bullshit way. Really clear it. You take your problems, you look at each of them, you let yourself feel them, and you accept them so that you can stop focusing on them. They’re still there, and they’re gonna be there to piss you off later, but for now, you just accept them and move on.”

As she spoke, Casper began to feel the older woman’s emotions shift. The humor died away, and something else rose in its place. Casper had often felt emotions lurking in the background of people’s minds. Annoyances they held suppressed, feelings of sadness they were refusing to let themselves feel. As Casper watched, Freja began to unpack them within herself. For a moment, she was angry, almost dangerously so; some powerful force of repressed emotion rising in her mind, it was a slow process, the calm coming gradually as the anger burned itself out and she once more took on that semblance of calm. It wasn’t the same as before. She was still a little angered, but that feeling slowly began to fade. Her face twitched.

“It feels like shit, to be honest,” she muttered. “It’s usually easier to just force our bad feelings down. But if you’re a mage, then they clog you up, stop you being clear. To get past them, you have to let yourself feel them. You have to look at them, you have to accept them, and you have to let them run their course.”

Casper felt something else arise from the background of his teacher’s mind. It was sadness, this time. It felt… fainter, faded in a way that was hard for Casper to put into words. Like a scar from an old wound. It too swelled within her mind, before, just as had done with the anger, it began to slowly fade as she let it fall beside her. She took a deep breath.

“If it helps,” she murmured. “I try to imagine it like a ball. All that shit in your brain messes with the ball, gives it sharp edges and pointy spikes. That’s all the crap that’s left over once you’ve let yourself feel it all. So, once I’ve done what I can to let my feelings go by, I try to massage the ball-”

In spite of himself, Casper snickered.

“Shut the fuck up or I’ll set you on fire.” Freja grumbled, her face setting momentarily back into a scowl. “You take your time with it. You imagine that silver orb inside your mind, and you slowly shape it back into a perfect sphere, and if you don’t lie to yourself, and you don’t go too fast with it, then once you’re done, you’ll be calm.”

It took time, Casper noted, Freja slowly working through whatever problems she held inside her mind, before slowly bringing what remained back to calm. After about five minutes, however, Casper was entranced. Freja was calm. Not just calm in the everyday sense, as his previous understanding of the word had allowed. She was almost empty. If he’d had to put a word to it, he’d have called it tired.

“Ah,” she murmured, more to herself than to him at this point. “There it is. When you get to the end, you’ll be able to sort of see it, like a light inside your brain. It’s… hard to describe, really, but you’ll know it when you feel it.”

Casper hesitated, uncertain, then spoke, his voice quiet.

“C-can you stay like that for a while?” He asked. “I… I think it might help me look for it.”

He had expected refusal, or at least some confusion from her. Instead, she merely grunted at the request.

“Sure. Whatever. Just give it another go, okay?”

He nodded, then closed his eyes.

The process was… difficult, to say the least. None of what the old witch had said was in any way soothing to him. But it had helped him know what to do, at least. He thought of his parents, and grimaced. It made him angry. It made him very, very angry. The big problem with letting go as Freja had instructed him was that it really wasn’t something he wanted to do. He wanted to be angry with them, and he wanted to stay angry with them. It felt right to hate. He felt his breathing begin to hasten, his heart beating faster in his chest.

“It’s okay,” he heard the old woman say quietly. He opened his eyes, and saw that she was looking at him, her expression calm. “You can hold onto this feeling forever, if you have to. But you need to let it go for now. It’ll still be there when you get back. I promise.”

He took a few long, deep breaths, his chest shaking slightly in his hate, and nodded.

He doubted he could have done it on his own. Set his feelings down like that. In the end, he used the old woman as an anchor, distancing himself with her calm, before gradually allowing the betrayal to slip between his fingers. He put it down, and tried to let the feelings run their course.

A little part of him felt like he’d failed himself in that moment. Like he was letting them both off easy. He did his best not to dwell. Under his teacher’s guidance, he carried on.

Author’s Note: Okay, so, I’ll be interested to see what you guys make of this one. It’s probably one of my stranger chapters done thus far. As always, input is appreciated. 

Just a lil disclaimer. Freja’s lesson isn’t a real meditation technique, as far as I’m aware. It might not even be healthy, like, at all. It’s just a thing I do sometimes when I need to clear my head. I’d be interested to see what you make of it. 

EDIT: Having looked at it, what they’re doing is actually very similar to mindfulness meditation. Being aware of one’s own feelings and their causes and attempting to avoid dwelling on them.

Kay. That’s all I had to say. Bai!

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Mistakes: 1.8

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Author note:

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.


James:

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.”


Tasha:

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:

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.

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