The Subtle Mage

Three things I knew for certain:

First, that my captors had gone to great lengths to make me comfortable.
Second, that my stay was going to be a long one.
Third, that I may possibly have some superpowers.

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3. The Vanishing Act

My vision swam. All of the air inside my lungs was emptied. I was seeing stars.

“I found you, you son of a bitch!” Crowed a voice I recognised. I groaned, one hand clutched to my stomach, the other rubbing my face.

“Nathan?” I wheezed. My vision cleared and my fears were confirmed: Nathan, the guy who I’d punched, was here. Nathan was tall for a fifteen-year-old. He had a smooth, childlike face and heavy-lidded brown eyes. His nose was a little on the squashy side still, and his eyebrows were furrowed in concentration, apparently the conversation was taking it’s toll on his single-celled brain.

“That’s right, mate. Didn’t expect this, did you?”

Talking isn’t really my forte either. I have trust issues. I guess that’s why he picked on me.

“No.” I said stiffly.

“You’re a right weirdo, you never talk. I think you’re a pussy.” He told me. I was getting tired of his tough guy act. I’d seen his blood; he didn’t scare me.“You broke my nose, mate.” He told me, hoisting my to my feet by the collar of my jacket. “So I think it’s only fair I break yours.” His grip tightened on my collar. “But hey.” He said, his eyes glinting menacingly. “At least you don’t have a mother who can wor-”

I admit, I acted out of pure instinct. I punched him hard in the face. It was like hitting a brick wall, but I didn’t care. His head whipped back, and as he glared at me, balling a hand into a fist, I was happy to see that he was bleeding from the mouth. I turned my head to the side, maybe then he wouldn’t break my nose. I saw his fist snap back, braced for impact then… Nothing.

I turned my head back to face him, I was puzzled to see the look of complete shock on his face. He pulled his fist back, aiming for my stomach this time. I tensed, awaiting the blow that should’ve struck earlier. He jabbed at me, but instead of being hit, his fist just sank right through me, as though I wasn’t there. Recoiling from the blow that never came, I fell to the ground.

“What the hell is wrong with you?!” He shrieked, stumbling backwards. “You’re a freak!” He turned and ran.

I got to my feet, tentatively prodding my chest. I felt pretty solid to me. It must’ve been some sort of prank… Yeah. Nathan was right: What the hell was wrong with me? Brushing myself off, I turned on my heel and sprinted home.

 

*** *** ***

 

The sun was setting when I got home. I barged past people still shopping, ignoring the angry and confused looks I got. When I arrived at The Crooked Wand I hammered on the locked door, earning even more strange looks from passers by.

A confused and tired-looking Fabian opened the door and peered out of the window at me. The door swung open, and I staggered inside.

“What’s happened?” He asked, his face serious.

“Nathan.” I panted, leaning against the frame of the door.

“What, that great big troll of a boy?”

“Yeah, he-”

“What of him?” He asked, guiding me up the stairs.

“He - he…" I began. “Well, I’m not really sure what happened.” I swallowed. “He, he punched me… Or - or tried to, I guess.” I stammered.

“He tried to?”

“I - uh, yeah.”

“You look a little pale, Aaron.”

“I - what? No - I’m fine.”

“What do you mean he tried to?”

“Well, his hand sort of went through me.”

The words sounded stupid even as they left my mouth, it must’ve been a trick of the light. I was tired - my mind was preoccupied. We’d reached the top of the stairs. We walked through to the kitchen and sat down opposite each other. I’d expected Fabian’s face to light up with laughter, but to my surprise, he looked stony faced - serious.

“Hmmmm…” He grumbled.

“What’s wrong with me? Am I a freak? Am I going in-”

Boom.

Fabian’s next sentence was drowned out by an explosion.

The floorboards beneath our feet bucked viciously, knocking us both down, and causing a bright orange flash to leak a scorching glow between the gaps. The door that separated the floors was blown open and a wave of heat cascaded through the breach. To my left the windows shattered, into a million glittering diamonds.

I know it’s cliché, but it was like time slowed down. The air was thick with shards of glass, which each individually contained the light of the fire. Fabian was off to my right somewhere, presumably in the same state I was in. Time was restored and I landed hard on my shoulder. The groan that escaped my lips was lost in the din. I rolled onto my back and gazed up to the ceiling.

As if my evening could get any worse, a coil of rope rushed past the broken window and became taut. With a sound like a zipper being done up, a silhouette blocked out the sunset. The figure swung backwards on the rope and crashed through the remains of the window, landing heavily mere inches from my forehead. He was clad in black armour, like a soldier, and wore a helmet with goggles that were blacked out. Across his lower mouth was bound a gas-mask. This, and the rest of his visage, lent him an alien look.

Reflexively, I sat bolt upright, or tried to, but was prevented as the soldier planted a heavy black boot on my chest. Mere minutes ago, Nathan had tried to hit me but his fist sank straight through me. Why wasn’t this happening now?

Fervently, I turned my head as hard as I could to try and catch a glimpse of Fabian. From various openings, more armed soldiers poured through, raising their weapons as they ran.

“Fabian!” I managed to choke out, but I was cut off by a sharp kick in the side. Spluttering, I tried calling out again, but to no avail. Defeated, the tension left my body and I gave in to captivity.

“One subject, held in captivity, ready for transport.” The soldier above me called out in what was unmistakably an English accent. That was the last that I heard before he raised his hand above his head and brought a needle down into my arm. My vision swam and I blacked out.

 

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