I’m not sure how I should start this. I could be clever and start from the middle and do one of those tricky out of order six months earlier dealies. Nah. The beginning is fine. Not the good old “I was born twenty two years ago, the youngest of four children” beginning though, no , you know as well as I do that life was fine and normal until the day when mom and dad’s plane went down. That’s as good of a place as any to start.
It was the twelfth of December, 1997; it was one of those cold days that left a person’s breath hovering in the air as a cloud and a fresh coat of snow blanketed the neighborhood with the crisp but faint scent of juniper. You had just gotten home a few days before, back home after yet another semester of college. The nurse had called the house to have someone get me for the day. My period had come, and the only class I had left was gym, so she hadn’t seen a point of making me stay for it. Shiella had needed to stay at work, she’d just gotten a promotion at the web design firm she worked at and had a bunch of things she needed to get done before the weekend, so you had come to get me. I remember because you got all flustered when I didn’t want to talk to you, even though you hadn’t really wanted to talk about it anyway. So in the end we just drove home in silence, and once we got back I locked myself in the bathroom for a while, knowing why I was bleeding, but not quite coming to accept it during the hour I spent crying in the shower, truth be told I might have stayed in there longer if the hot water hadn’t run out… well that and Tyler had started yelling at me by that point.
When I was sure he wasn’t at the door I retreated to my room, I really didn’t want to talk to any one that day, except mom. I hid under my covers in some sort of effort to hide from the world, and I must have fallen asleep thinking about her, because the next thing I knew, I felt an uncomfortable panic fall over me, and then the same three pronged pain that came after. I knew what had happened as it happened to them, not an hours later after the fact when we saw about it on the news and got the phone call. First there was the pressure, it was what woke me up, it made my ears pop uncomfortably, and I could feel it wrapping around my skin like a full body tourniquet, I couldn’t move. Soon, I couldn’t breathe either, the body tourniquet had become saran wrap and covered my face, my lungs burned, and when I thought I could take no more, I felt the inferno that whipped around them, eating my skin cell by cell, molecule by molecule until it reached the point if I had really been burning with them, my nerve ends would have been gone. I vaguely remember screaming, and I woke everyone up, and then, as I thought the pain wouldn’t end I felt the brunt of it, the shock of the electricity of the living connection between us and them being disconnected like the small hot blue and purple spark a plug makes when you pull it out too fast. With the jolt the feelings left, and there was nothing left but the dark, and the sharp but gentle coldness of death.
You and Shiella told me it had to be a nightmare. I wanted to believe you, that it was just a bad dream, that the plane was
fine, there hadn’t been a crash, but somehow, in the back of my twelve year old brain, I knew what I had felt. I knew that I’d never hear dad’s low rich chocolate voice read to me, and never sit doing homework and have the sweet smell of mom’s vanilla and rose perfume lingering after a hug letting me know that even if I didn’t get it all right, it was that I finished it that counted. None of us could have known at that point that I had inherited some genetic long lost ability to see and manipulate electrical pathways, even those of the brain, and none of us could have known that me not learning how to control it would cause me so much distress later on. Actually, I think you and Shiella forgot about the whole thing, not that I can’t blame you, most everything after that nightmare feels like a blurry mess that got rained on and never washed off.
The images I do remember are like a set of grotesque paintings in a fire lit gallery accompanied by some cruel person’s idea of a soundtrack, it’s a nightmare that’s etched in my brain, the back of my eyelids and my inner ears so I can never forget. Even now the smell of burning plastic brings them back like the real nightmare they are. The news footage of the big grey airliner with its red and blue stripes and company logo barely visible on its shattered, burning remains with the ever echoing announcement that there were no survivors, the torn gruesome looks on you, Shiella, and Tyler’s faces when the phone gave its shrill dooming ring and we all realized it wasn’t a nightmare after all. Things after that are the most blurred, my only duty to try not to blow the last week of school. It was you guys that had the bigger burdens, funeral arrangements, getting the wills figured out. There was no real Christmas that year. Sure, there were stray presents, but nothing memorable.
When I think about it now, it makes my mind reel; you guys had to become extremely more responsible then you had been in a few days time. It was especially true for Shiella, she went from being the big sister that I hardly knew to a motherly authority figure. You had college and your football scholarship you were worrying about, and then grad school. It was the same thing for Tyler, except he was around yet for a few years before he went off and did his archeology thing. I still remember picturing him running around the temple of doom. I blame that on you, I think you were my only babysitter that ever insisted on watching movies the whole time. I, on the other hand had a completely different set of problems.
School had never been easy for me socially. Other kids, the other girls especially made making friends and talking with boys look so easy. What I didn’t realize is they thought the same way about me and school work. With the awakening of whatever powers it was that I got, I unconsciously found myself picking up on their strongest emotions. I had read about things like auras and stuff in books, but I had never taken them to be any sort of real until then. Every person’s strongest emotions were wrapped around them, like the outer layer of the sun, bubbling and always moving, always changing. The thing I noticed the most about them is that not only could I see the auras, but I could feel faint reflections of them as well. It was ok most of the time, especially in middle school; the emotions weren’t quite as complex as they later became, and at first my talent wasn’t nearly as strong as it would eventually become in high school. The emotions didn’t affect me much at first, I could read them and feel the water downed pastel versions of them as if they were colors for me to take in and taste.
It helped me more than hindered me and I found myself getting along with people I never imagined I would. They still weren’t exactly what I considered to be my friends, but it was a step closer to having more than one or two close friends that experience told me would eventually abandon or hurt me intentionally or unintentionally. It was a hard lesson I had learned in elementary school, friends weren’t always friends. If the clique didn’t think you fit, you were out. For me it happened suddenly, the girls who had supposed to be my best friends “forever”, ditched me for the sixth graders who were apparently “cooler” then me. I remember crying a lot when I was eleven because of this, but then again I had mom there to comfort me then. I didn’t have that any more, and while Shiella tried, she was no replacement for mom, and while Tyler was the sibling I was closest to, he also wasn’t a replacement for what was lost. It became easier to play the social game, not letting anyone really get to know me. I became ok at it, I was more like a social moth then a butterfly, but it did for what I needed it for, distract myself from some of the things I was feeling inside, and even more importantly, what I wasn’t feeling inside.
We were seeing a family councilor to help deal with the grief of losing mom and dad; Dr. Haley or something like that. All I can really remember is the man had a PhD in Psychology, and I spent many a session staring at his degrees and the plethora of other wall decorations. We always went in together, Shiella, Tyler and me, and occasionally you were along during your breaks. We were all encouraged to share how we felt and work through the grieving process. The talking as a family helped I suppose, just not as much as what I possibly needed. Shiella tried her best, being a “mom” trying to catch the things that were wrong, but on the outside, I was pretty good at hiding the fact that there was nothing wrong. My grades and social activities didn’t show it anyway, I was a straight-A, honor roll student, in the select choir, and on the science quiz bowl team. I was for all purposes to the world outside my head a pretty red head, freckled Irish descended girl; slightly shy, and athletic enough for being decent at gym class and the afterschool intramural sports; volleyball and softball mostly. It turned out that middle school was easy even though it was always getting harder to tell myself I was happy and everything was ok. As my apparent sensitivity increased so did my difficulty with pretending everything was ok.
Sometimes I wonder if Dr. Haley had insisted on more one on one sessions with me if I would have ended up in the same place. It’s really hard to say, I’m guessing they might have institutionalized me in some matter, after all; ten years ago they really didn’t have the resources to train us so called “meta-humans” as well as they can now. Even when I did finally get help, I could never really talk about how I could see electrical clouds around people that lapped at me with jolts of power, pouring their emotions onto me. It still sounds crazy to me, even after all my training and everything I’ve done with it. Anyway, that was after the climax of the issues, I’m babbling out of order like I said I wouldn’t.
High School was a whole different experience then Middle school, mix in the fact that my sensitivity was greater with the emotions my peers were feeling had grown like dandelions left untended in a flowerbed. It hurt when they felt things, and adding hormones hadn’t helped at all. My grades finally started to slip a little sophomore year, math hadn’t been as easy, and eventually I had a horrible time concentrating on anything. It just continued to get worse… until the day of the Rikti invasion. I had felt uneasy that whole day, and even though the Rikti attack hadn’t affected Northcrest as much as Paragon City Proper, the pain was very real for everyone.
I had been having the thoughts for a while before that though. Things kept on hurting, and they weren’t stopping. I wanted it to stop, so I went that home that day filled with a sorrow multiplied by the millions that felt it. I still hadn’t been sure I wanted to, I think that’s why I’d picked the knife rather then something more certain. I knew I could look up lethal doses of so many different over the counter drugs we had, or household items. Shiella’s knife seemed kinder though. I wouldn’t have to swallow anything horrid, I would just have to make a little slit vertically down my wrists. I even knew that it would be harder to fix that way. I had the blade in my hand, I had been ready to do it, sitting facing the sink in the kitchen, so it’d be easy to clean up. I was going to cut my right wrist first, thinking that as my stronger, it would be easier than cutting left the left then the right. So I had the blade unsteady in my left hand, hovering over the vein… and Tyler had come in like the nerdy mouse he is, startling me to the point that the edge sunk into my skin.
It’s a bit of a blur after that. He realized right away what had happened, and grabbed a washcloth to hold over my wrist, somehow we got to the hospital.
He told the emergency room doctors it had been an accident. Then told me he wouldn’t tell Sheilla or you what had happened as long as I saw a psychiatrist. So… I did. They put me on some meds, it helped, and balanced whatever other chemicals my brain made enough that it numbed my empathy.
I guess I’ve been wanting to tell you ever since Sheilla got sick and had to leave the planet. The Kheldians knew, they helped a lot when they trained me and showed me how to expel the electricity as well instead of just absorb all of it as painful emotions. Then there was Citla too she’s
Sean walked in after fiddling with his keys in the door for a while. Leah had given him the keys to her apartment in Faultline in case he wanted to make a visit to Rachielle… she’d been gone for a few months now, but she hadn’t requested the key back, it was sort of good to know that he could come over when he wanted. On reflex she snapped her laptop shut. She wanted to tell him everything, but she wasn’t ready. Not now, it was too soon since they had realized their mother was quite possibly still alive… and a warshade at that. It wasn’t time for these words… maybe she’d let him read it eventually, but for now, the letter that would never be sent was good enough, even if the words were left unsaid.