It must be hard. I would know. To have to know me, teach me, calm me down. To have to repair what I break, apologise to those I hurt. I suppose I should see them as saints. And I would. If they weren’t partly responsible for what I am. I am a monster. A mutation. I am River.
It started when I was six. I was playing with a little wooden man, sitting cross-legged by the fire. My mother was behind me, rocking in her chair, with my baby sister on her lap. I suppose my father was out hunting, but I’m not sure. A six year old doesn’t pay much attention to those things. It started as a slight itching sensation on the top of my head. I reached up to scratch it, and that’s when I realised how hot my head had become. I placed the flat of my tiny, six-year-old hand against it and moved away from the fire, behind my mother’s chair. My head was really hurting now. I remember dropping my wooden man, and screaming for all I was worth. Then I blacked out.
I’ve got a lid on it now. Usually. The pain is still there, throbbing constantly behind my left ear, but I use it to my own advantage now. It allows me to focus. It occurred to me then, precisely seven years ago I was sitting exactly as I am now. Cross legged. I raised my hand to my head, but this time, instead of being scared, I let the heat build up and up. Dropping my hand, I glanced around the room. Every single object that was not nailed down had risen into the air and was bobbing around. I smiled. Perfect. I let the objects drop as my door opened. Nurse Whitestone. The nurse jerked his head in my direction, and just like the good girl that I always presented to the world, I rose from my sitting position and walked out the door, allowing the nurse to restrain me. I could just as easily have floated myself out the door, liquidised the nurse’s brains, and made my escape there and then. But I didn’t.
The only reason I allow these imbeciles to study me is because they look after me. I don’t really fancy the idea of going into the big, wide world on my own. Too many variables. Nurse Whitestone nudged my shoulder with the plastic handle of his taser, and I obediently turned into the studying room. The studying room had only a metal chair (nailed to the floor) and a creepy, wired bed in it. (Also nailed down. I could easily tear apart the atoms of the nails to get rid of them, but why bother?) Just as I have done so many times before, I lay down on the bed, and let the nurse strap me down. I wriggled slightly to position myself under the wires better, and closed my eyes.
I wondered who they were showing me off to today. So many people come to see my brain being scanned I sometimes feel as though I am a freak show. The wires buzzed, and I blacked out for the rest of the procedure.
I woke back in my ‘cell’. It’s relatively nice, considering, just a little boring. There’s only a pristine white bed, and several wooden geometric shapes for me to fly around the room. Sometimes I get books and comics, but these are taken away as soon as I have read them. I lay back on my bed and let my mind wander. Literally.
My consciousness left my body and flew down the white corridors. I paused to see who was left in the study room, and saw only my doctor, Nurse Whitestone, and some army guy. What a waste of my time to show him my brain. I continued my soundless soaring, until I arrived at my destination. I wondered if Ishmael was awake.
I let my consciousness melt through a white door, identical to mine, but with fewer reinforcements. Apparently, this occupant posed no immediate threat. Ishmael was lying on the ground—his favourite position. I personally found it decidedly uncomfortable, but then I didn’t have seven-foot long, white, feathery wings growing out of my back. I spoke into Ishmael’s head.
Ishmael. Ishmael. Thy doth come bearing glad tidings. I could see Ishmael snort and open his mouth.
‘The only tidings you ever bear are useless ones. I think I’d rather be bored than listen to you recite your favourite poems in my head.’
If I’d had a mouth, I would have smiled. Ishmael was the only other occupant of what we lovingly named ‘the loony house’ who a.) Hadn’t gone insane, and b.) Hadn’t freaked out at having a disembodied voice chattering in his head. You’ve been neglecting your preening. I can see a whole speck of dirt on your wing! His eyes flew open.
If I’d had eyes, I would have rolled them. One should never under-estimate the uses of a corporeal form. Forget it. Feel like an escape? We could go to New York this time for a bit, then come back. Just to annoy them.
Ishmael pursed his mouth. ‘When? ‘Cuz I’m not exactly busy right now.’
Wait here, and grab a coat. Be right back. My consciousness zipped back to my body, and my eyes flew open. Time to show these trained chimps what real power was.
I stood, and stalked towards the door. I tore apart its atoms, and re-formed them into a surfboard-like shape. Climbing aboard, I stood with my legs braced as my newly found transport cut corners and scared the hell out of a small cockroach. The guards that were sent to stop me didn’t stand a chance. I decided to spare their lives, and instead fractured their legs. Not fatal, but extremely painful.
I atomised Ishmael’s door, and he flapped out gracelessly to join me in my crazy race down the corridors. Picking up speed, I blasted a hole in a wall in front of us and we burst into open air. Freedom was sweet.
I glanced back at Ishmael and jerked my head towards the edge of the city where a forest stretched to the horizon. He nodded, and bunched his shoulder muscles, streaking away before I could speak. I narrowed my eyes. You’re on, buddy.