Random flashbacks of a life screamed through: a birthday party, a graduation scene, an all-nighter that almost went wrong. Then, there was darkness; a void with no light or sound. It was the most terrifying thing anyone could go through. Just when the mind was about to scream, the will of the soul was about to ache for anything to happen, an excruciating zap was felt and coursed throughout the body. It was enough for Tabitha to yell out in pain, holding back tears. She let the pain dissipate before she attempted to gather her senses. Noises and smells, finally; not the best of smells but it was a small relief that she was able to sense something. She slowly opened her eyes; her vision was blurred but she could tell that it was raining: she was also finally able to feel.
Out of instinct, the first thing that came to mind was trying to remember who she was. Name: Tabitha Nicole Lyght. Born and raised in Tennessee. Occupation: Army staff sergeant. Date……
She rubbed her eyes and slightly moaned; the effects of whatever had struck her still coursed through her body, making her lightheaded and confused. What day was it? Why couldn’t she remember the date? And, more importantly… where was she?
A jolt, a voice repeated in her mind. Her eyes finally focused and she realized in disgust that she was in an alley. She slowly started to remember things as she tried to figure out why her body felt so weird… and why she was in an alley! An experiment; some type of liquid being injected inside of her and then a jolt to her body. An over-zealous general and terrified green eyes. She recalled smoke from some type of machine and the sudden sensation of something that felt like it ripped her in half.
Did she die? Tabitha tried to stand but her legs would not cooperate; she immediately fell back down. Not wanting to try it again, she scooted herself to the side of the building and propped herself up against the wall. She did die, she slowly realized. The only explanation as to why she was in that alley… was that the general had her dumped there. Her brain was still cloudy, she was still feeling funny but she knew that she was a dump job.
She felt like she was on fire, a pins and needle feeling coursing through her entire body. She angrily wondered what the general had told the others in her unit. She couldn’t even imagine the web of lies he told them. Because, if he would’ve told the others that she had died, she would’ve been still in the “comfort” of the darkness she was experiencing. That thought made her wonder how she was revived… or even if she had even died. Maybe she was just unconscious.
It made her even more upset; if she was merely unconscious and woke up in that alley, that meant that the general didn’t need any evidence that something wrong had happened. She imagined him telling the others that the experiment was actually a success; the electrocution was just a small setback. They would be slightly celebrating that the staff sergeant would be one of the first to be deployed overseas to test it out even more; they would line up to volunteer to fight alongside her. It was the perfect lie; no one would ever think to question it.
Tabitha had to stop thinking about that and start worrying about the weird feeling that coursed through her veins. It felt like… electricity. Her eyes widened as they were fully focused… and she saw a hint of electric currents waving throughout her hands. She closed them shut, shaking her head; she was having an illusion. She had never been electrocuted before; she had no idea of what side effects she would have from being shocked to the point of unconsciousness. The only thing that she knew was that she needed to calm down and get out of that alley.
Tabitha willed herself to stand, leaning on the wall for support. It was a small struggle to become upright but when she finally did, her legs became jelly yet again. No… no, she tried to reprimand herself; she was not going to cry! She curled herself up into a ball, trying hard not to let her tears fall. She just wanted things to go right; she wanted that electric feeling gone, she wanted to walk, she wanted to get out of there… she wanted to find that general…
A sudden shuffle startled her and she popped her head up. A homeless person, she sighed to herself. With everything that was happening to her, she hadn’t noticed the man across from her. He got up slowly and approached her. She glanced down at her hands; the currents were starting to become noticeable and she buried them underneath her arms. She was slightly frightened; Tabitha had never encountered a homeless person before and figured that they were just like how they had been portrayed in movies: drunk, smelly and incoherent, possibly delusional and violent.
However, the man was sympathetic as he approached her with what looked like a blanket. She could see his eyes beyond the filth, a filth that came from living in the alley for a while; they were as brown and gentle as her own were. He smiled as he draped the ragged blanket over her.
“I’ve been waiting on you to wake up. Could’ve passed for a dead woman…” his southern accent had her hoping that she was at least still in the city. She didn’t remember any alleyways in Chattanooga but that was the least of her worries.
“How… long I’ve been out…?” the coarseness of her voice sounded as if she had come out of a deep sleep. The man continued to smile as he held out a grimy hand; he wanted to help her at least stand up.
“Oh… ‘bout a day or two. Thought you were an old woman at first… but I can see that you’re a young’un…” he mentioned. He had grabbed her shoulder to help lift her up. It was then when she had felt it; that pins and needles feeling that was making her uncomfortable fired up, making her grab the man’s arm. Without warning, the currents that had started as small waves around her hands exploded into streams of lightning, traveling from her fingertips and up the man’s arm. She couldn’t stop it; Tabitha watched in disbelief as the man who was trying to help her had been immediately engulfed in an electrical surge. After what seemed like forever, he finally fell to the ground, still convulsing from the lightning… the lightning that she had seen come from her fingers. The feeling that had made her immobile calmed down enough for her to move; still in shock, she hurriedly crawled into a corner deeper into the alley. She watched as the surge that had killed the man finally disintegrated and was replaced with the awful smell of burnt flesh in the air. Confused, frightened and almost sick to her stomach, Tabitha curled up into a tight ball… and finally cried.
The doctor was not a medical doctor but she had enjoyed the title very much. She was actually a professor and she felt that she was a very good one. Not as good as her close friend who taught at the same college but she chalked that up as the two having a different passion when they were in college. However, she was all the more flattered that he had informed her of the phenomenon that was happening in the downtown area. He knew that while their other colleagues would have sat there and simply talked about it, she would find the time out of her busy schedule to investigate.
Dr. Jamila Lindsey was born and raised in Memphis, TN; a few years after attending Duke University and then Columbia University, she finally returned home to become a physics professor at the local community college. It wasn’t too much different from the career path that she wanted to pursue ever since the age of 12; she had always wanted to become a meteorologist.
Jamila had always had a thing for weather, particularly the bad part of it. While attending Duke University in North Carolina, she wanted badly to be a part of the hurricane hunters; she couldn’t explain her fascination with them. However, she was let down when she found out that she would have to go through the military in order to do so. When she found out that hurricanes and tornadoes went hand-in-hand, she decided to take the risk and volunteer to help out storm-chasing teams. She learned more than she ever imagined.
The 5’5 professor dismissed her class early; she had put off her investigation for too long. She wanted to make quick work of her snooping around so not to worry her family. According to her good friend, Dr. Wyatt Rivera, there had been a series of unexplained deaths in an alley downtown. All of the bodies found looked as if they had been electrocuted. Any regular person would think that maybe they were unlucky victims of lightning strikes but there were two things that made Jamila believe that it didn’t make sense. The chances of lightning striking a person were very unlikely; it was possible but for the victims to be in the same spot, in the same alley? The professor was not buying that.
The other thing was that Jamila was a devout follower of the weather; there had been only one severe lightning storm in the past month. The deaths had been occurring almost constantly ever since that storm. The police had not ruled out that the victims may had been random targets for a bunch of bullying teens or young adults but she wondered, why that particular alleyway? Her close friend was right; things were not making sense and the only thing to explain it was that something phenomenal was indeed happening.
Jamila easily parallel parked her vehicle on the side of street; because of the sudden deaths, not a lot of people even bothered to walk on that side, let alone park there. The alleyway was not hard to locate; it was the only one on that side. She entered the alley as quickly and quietly as possible. No sooner than she did, Jamila smelt the stench of overflowed sewage, garbage and burnt flesh. It was no wonder no one wanted to go near the area; she had no idea which smell was worse!
Something stirring in one of the dark crevices grabbed the professor’s attention over the smell and she looked in that direction. It was one of the homeless people, she knew; seeing that they were there, Jamila figured that she could start her investigation with talking to that person. It was foolish, somewhat dangerous, she knew but she carefully made her way towards the person. As she gotten closer, she saw that it was an old woman curled up in a ball. Her white hair, the color of pure snow stood out in her dark and dank surroundings.
“H-hey… you okay?” she tried. When the woman suddenly jerked her head up, Jamila saw firsthand that it was no old woman! The white-haired… girl looked no older than twenty, even with her face covered with filth. She had been crying, Jamila could tell, and knew that she may have witnessed some, if not all of the deaths. Her eyes were swollen and moist as she looked at the professor in fear. Another thing that crossed the professor’s mind was why… and how did the girl dye her hair so perfectly white!
“N-no; don’t touch me!! Stay away!!” the girl’s lips quivered. Her accent was just as thick as the professor’s so Jamila knew that the frightened girl was from the area. The professor saw that she had been a beautiful girl once; her eyes were a pretty light brown, lighter than her own chestnut eyes. Her skin was smooth despite being marred by dirt. The girl’s eyes now danced with fear as she tucked her hands tighter underneath her arms.
“Wait… I wanna help. I wanna ask you something. Please; just let me…”
“I-I-I… don’t wanna shock you, too!!” she yelled, doing her best to inch away from Jamila. She came closer, stretching her hand out anyway. It was enough for the girl to widen her eyes, let out a terrifying scream and swat at her hand.
Jamila knew that if she would have told anyone what she had just witnessed… no one would believe her! As the girl swatted at her, a surge of lightning burst from her fingers, narrowly missing the professor as she jumped out of the way. It was her turn to narrow her eyes.
“Holy… shit; what are you?!” she managed but it only made the girl sob. She turned her head away from Jamila.
“G-g-go away… please!” she begged and continued to cry. Jamila calmed down and simply watched as electrical currents faintly flowed throughout the girl’s body. As scary as it was, she had to also admit that… it was simply amazing! Jamila took her glasses off, wiped at them and put them back on; the girl was still slightly glowing with surges. The professor had other things in mind than simply walking away from this phenomenon.
“Wait… I came here to help. Would you let me help you… please?” it was her turn to beg. The girl didn’t stop crying but looked at the professor.
“H-help…? N-n-no one can h-help me! If you touch me… you’ll die… what can you do?!”
“… I can help. Trust me.” she wouldn’t let up. Being a physics professor as well as a former storm-chaser, Jamila knew a thing or two about lightning; she had this sense that she would be able to help the girl.
The girl finally stopped crying and looked up at Jamila. She was still there, wanting to help. Jamila slightly smiled at her, “First things first; can you stand?” she waited for an answer. The girl slowly stood up and the professor immediately noticed two things; she almost towered over her and whoever the mutant was, she was military personnel, “What’s your name?”
“Did you… kill those people, Tabitha?” her question made electricity come to life around the girl.
“I… I didn’t mean to! I-I-I d-don’t know what…”
“Okay, okay, okay… I understand…” she carefully held her arms out, trying to calm Tabitha down, “I can tell you one thing, already; whatever you got, it’s going on emotions. You gotta calm down, okay?”
“I’m… so confused! What happened to me?!” Tabitha continued to panic. Jamila started to step back as the surges continue to flow around her, trying to snap out in all directions.
“That’s what we’re going to find out. But, you’re gonna have to calm down if you want to leave this alley.” Jamila explained quickly. After a few deep breaths and a couple of sniffles, the electrical surges calmed down and slowly dissipated from her body, “Good. See; we’re taking a step in the right direction! Now, don’t think just… do, okay? The good ol’ doc is gonna take care of you, alright?” she smiled. Tabitha continued to take deep breaths, clearing her mind but nodded. Had she heard right; was the woman an actual doctor? It relieved Tabitha and for the first time in a while, her mind was clear.
“You’re doing great, Tabitha! Now… I’m gonna come to you and lay my hand on you; don’t panic…” Jamila warned the girl when she saw that her eyes widened and a slight current started to form around her hands, “Just keep breathing deeply and concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.” she continued to explain. Jamila slowly put her hand on Tabitha’s shoulder, braced for a shock and was relieved that she didn’t feel a thing. She smiled at her, “Now… let’s get you out of this alley.”
She barely breathed as the two made their way to the professor’s home. She was curious as to why they were going to the woman’s home rather than to some hospital but she didn’t question it. She was actually glad that they weren’t going there; the very thought of being kept like an experimental lab rat only made the electricity slightly come up in small spurts. She cleared her mind for the umpteenth time and tried to think about what would lie in store for her. She found herself actually looking forward to a nice, warm meal and a soft bed to sleep in. A quick sniff and Tabitha knew that maybe a long, hot bath would be the first priority.
She slightly looked out of the window as the sun started to set and realized that she had no idea where she was. If this was Chattanooga, she was in an area she was not used to seeing. Her slight tour was interrupted as she caught a glimpse of herself in the side mirror. Okay… there’s no need to panic; there’s a perfectly good explanation as to why my hair is white, she told herself. She tried to take her attention off of her new hair color and glanced at the woman driving. Of course, she would have the answers that she wanted but Tabitha decided against speaking to her at the moment.
The professor looked very calm, despite having to deal with Tabitha’s odor. She deducted that maybe she wanted her to stay calm as well. Tabitha liked her skin tone; while her best friend had teased that she was the color of a lion, the professor had a medium copper tone. Her dreads were an odd mix: her roots were a very dark brown that subtly blended into a red-violet color on some strands, a golden brown on others; they were pinned up into a neat bun going towards the back.
The professor’s arms were as toned as Tabitha’s, showing off a few tattoos which surprised her. The one that stuck out the most was the slightly faded one towards her shoulder; two roses shaped into a heart. She knew that they were supposed to be roses however the petals looked more like claws. Of course, Tabitha thought, underneath it a man’s name was tattooed. She assumed that how the woman had chosen to wear a cotton top with short sleeves that barely covered her shoulders, he was the current boyfriend. Husband, Tabitha immediately corrected herself when the glint of silver wedding bands caught her eye.
Ten minutes passed and Jamila turned into a newly developed neighborhood. There was construction still going on in the front and they made their way towards the end of the street, where there were finally signs of housing. They varied in shape and style; some were two stories, some were not. Jamila parked her sage Mercury Mariner behind a tan Pontiac Grand Am. The front yard was neatly trimmed, evenly separated by the concrete sidewalk leading up to the huge porch that surrounded the home, a two-storied house with red brick and peach sidings. Two flags stood in front of the porch in the yard, silently swaying and greeting people to the home: U.S. Marine Corps on the right, University of Memphis on the left. It was enough to make Tabitha stop dead in her tracks. University of Memphis… was she actually in Memphis?! That was almost 300 miles away from her home; did the general actually have the audacity to dump her there?!
She took a quick scan of the neighborhood, just to make sure. Unfortunately, the professor was the only one who had anything of that effect in her yard. She looked back at her with a smile.
“Everything okay?” she asked. Tabitha gave her a quick nod and followed her anyway inside the house. Her ears were introduced to sudden, shrilled laughter. Thumps and thuds could be heard all throughout the house and a man’s desperate voice calling out to “ring the damn bell”.
Jamila looked back apologetically… and then realized the actual danger of bringing the mutant into her home.
“Remember what I told you, Tabitha…” she quickly added. Deep breaths, clear mind; deep breaths, clear mind, “I’m sorry. It’s Friday; ‘Smackdown’ is coming on tonight. This is how we get ready!” she explained. It never dawned on her that the married doctor would have children; from the sounds of it, small, active… hyper children. Before Tabitha could question what a “Smackdown” was, more thumping was heard coming towards them.
“Momma’s home!!” a little girl’s voice sang out and three hyper children immediately appeared; the girl was accompanied by two boys. Deep breaths, clear mind…
They bombarded their mother, nearly knocking her off her feet. Triplets, she could tell, all three were thin; one boy with jet black braids, the other with dirt brown braids and the girl had dark brown/reddish ponytails. All three reached their mother’s waist easily. The boys were spitting images of the professor, all the way down to their medium copper complexion, oval chestnut eyes and thin, bow-shaped lips; the girl had a beautiful mahogany tone with big, round nearly black eyes. When a man walked into the hallway, Tabitha saw that there would be no way the man would be able to deny that the little girl was his daughter.
At first, the man smiled at the scene of his children tackling their mother, finally getting her down on the ground. Her once neat bun escaped its restraints and her dreads flowed an inch past her shoulders. The husband’s attention finally landed on Tabitha and he cleared his throat. Deep breaths, clear mind…
Jamila was finally let up from the floor and gave her husband a quick kiss. Any other time, Tabitha would have laughed at the fact that the couple was nearly the same height. However, his dark eyes made it known that he didn’t have a clue who she was, why she was there… and why she smelled as if she just crawled from out of a sewer.
“Who’s this, mommy?” one of the boys asked, looking up at Tabitha. The other two followed suit. Deep breaths, clear mind…
“This… is Tabitha. Tabitha, this is my family. That’s my husband, Albert and these three are our babies…”
“We’re not babies!” the girl stated for her brothers. Jamila raised her eyebrows at the brazenness of the children but let out a small laugh.
“Fine! These two… young men are Albert…”
“A.C., momma; she’s gonna get confused…” A.C. corrected her. Jamila huffed as his father gave him a stern look.
“Boy; what did I tell you about that?!” Albert’s accent wasn’t as strong as Jamila’s but Tabitha could tell that he was southern as well. Jamila sighed and hugged her children.
“Anyway; this is A.C. and Jamil. And, this young lady is Solonia. Guys, Miss Tabitha’s gonna be staying with us for a while.” Jamila finished but soon regretted her last sentence. Her children’s eyes lit up and they started to approach Tabitha. Her eyes widened slightly and she immediately hid her hands behind her back. Deep… mind, clear… breaths…?
“Really?! She’s gonna watch wrestlin’ with us?!”
“Who’s your favorite cuz if you say Randy Orton then that’s a smart choice, right dad?!”
“You must be as old as granny and paw-paw cuz your hair is whiiiiite…”
“H-hey! That ain’t nice!” Albert snapped at Jamil. Jamila quickly intercepted her children and pushed them through the hallway.
“Your mouth gonna get you in trouble, again! Now, that’s enough! She will watch wrestling with us if you three behave from now on! Is everyone’s room clean?”
“Don’t ‘aw, ma’ me! You know the rule; if you wanna watch Randy Orton, you gotta clean your room! Now, march; all three of you!” she ordered. Even while going upstairs, Tabitha could hear the unpleasant groans. Jamila walked back into the hallway in time to see her husband reaching his hand out for Tabitha to shake… and Tabitha slightly backing away. She quickly approached the two and immediately grabbed Tabitha, forgetting about the danger of doing so. She had tensed up… but was surprised that she didn’t shock the professor.
“Uh… no! She… uh… she needs a bath!”
“I’ll explain later, after dinner. Just… just make sure they clean their rooms!” she hurried Tabitha upstairs.
She didn’t know how but Tabitha survived her long awaited bath. The technique that Jamila had taught her seem to had worked as she found herself actually enjoying being in the presence of hyper children watching and imitating their favorite wrestlers. She even let out a small laugh as Jamila repeatedly told the children to eat while they had dinner afterwards. She didn’t blame them for their curiosity; there sat a white-haired stranger who didn’t speak and they were determined to get her undivided attention. As soon as their plates were almost empty (Jamila realized that the three were not going to finish their dinner that night and gave up), their father took them upstairs and got them ready for bed. Jamila excused herself to help out; the three were still excited about their new houseguest.
While the triplets were being tucked in (their questions non-stop), Tabitha carefully placed herself on the comfortable couch and started to nod off. She had been bathed, slightly taken care of, fed… and finally out of that alley. She was so exhausted she didn’t stir as Jamila made her way back downstairs.
“Oh… yeah, I guess you’ve had a long day, yourself. Let me show you where you’ll be sleeping.” her voice woke Tabitha up. She yawned, stretched and smiled at her slightly.
“No worries! I would let you stay there but the guest bed is much more comfortable.” she said. Tabitha groggily followed her upstairs and immediately saw the two rooms that were meant for the children; each door had been customized to their likings. Jamila opened the door next to Solonia’s room and Tabitha immediately plopped into the bed.
“This will be your room. We’ll talk in the morning…” she slightly laughed. Tabitha lifted her head and glanced back at the professor, a small smile on her face.
“Thank you… for everything…” she said. Jamila only shrugged.
“No problem. Good night.” she said but knew that Tabitha probably didn’t hear her; she was breathing soundly into the blanket.
There was a picnic at the beach. The triplets were building small sand castles and then would body slam each other into them. The professor and her husband were sitting besides her, eating and scolding their children, who weren’t listening. Tony was, well, being Tony; talking about random things, pausing ever so often to ogle at a bikini-clad woman. She ate a sandwich, and debated on taking a quick dip in the ocean. The water was crystal clear, actually tempting her to get a little relief from the sun.
Then she remembered that she couldn’t swim. The cloudless sky immediately turned blood red with black clouds. The calm waves were now as violent as if a hurricane was making its presence known. Everyone else on the beach had run for shelter, leaving Tabitha there alone. She tried to run after them but saw that she couldn’t move, stuck in some sort of quicksand. She looked towards the water and could only watch as the waves started to come closer and closer, almost promising that they would take her life. She fought to move but with no luck; she even tried to dig herself out. She turned to call for help but there was no one in sight. Lightning flashed across the red sky every time she tried to make another move.
Before Tabitha knew it, the waves had engulfed her, turning into ten feet swells. They hit her as hard as fists and she found herself bracing for the next hit, unable to even defend herself against them. She opened her mouth to scream but was immediately silenced as water engulfed her lungs. She coughed until they were clear and screamed. She tried to free herself with more urgency and was finally able to move. It didn’t matter; as soon as she freed herself, she looked back at the waves: there was no escaping them. She was going to drown.
Her eyes popped open and she was in the dark. She blinked a few times and saw the shadows in the room. She tried to catch her breath, to steady her heart and realized that she had been dreaming. Tabitha shut her eyes tightly and took a deep breath; it smelt as if something had been burnt. Her hands were close to burning, that pins and needles feeling ran rampart through her veins. She jumped out of bed and even in the dark, could see the faint currents that traveled throughout her hands and body. Still shaking, she turned the light on and looked in terror at the bed; where she had laid was outlined in semi-seared sheets.
Tabitha dropped to her knees and tried desperately to calm down. Once she did, her next mission was to hunt down the linen closet and replace the ruined sheets. She immediately worried about what the doctor would say about them and she felt the start of that electric feeling edging out. Calm down; just calm down, she told herself repeatedly. She needed to splash some cold water on herself, to shake the bad thoughts out of her head.
She slowly walked out of the room and listened for anyone stirring. When she heard nothing, she made her way to the bathroom. With it being right next to the master bedroom, she heard the two parents talking as she silently closed the door.
“So, we can talk now? Who is that? And why is she staying with us?”
“I… okay; I really don’t know, exactly.”
“I… found her in an alley…….. don’t give me that look; let me expla…”
“You brought a bum here?! You let our kids be exposed to her like that?!”
“Just let me explain! We were in the lounge the other day and Wyatt started yakking at the mouth about how these bums were being electrocuted in the alley. I tried to get him to come with me but you know how chicken shit he really is!”
“So, what; you went to check it out. By yourself. Without calling me.”
“You would’ve stopped me…”
“Damn right, I would’ve!” Albert slightly raised his voice. Tabitha heard a sigh and continued to listen, “So, now you’re a hero to the bums. You saved her from the sicko who’s been torturing them?”
“… Not exactly. See… she’s the one who’s been killing them folks…” Jamila explained carefully. Tabitha heard the shifting of sheets.
“She’s… WHAT?!?! You brought that muthafucker into our own home; around our kids?!?!”
“Shush!! Don’t wake up the whole damn neighborhood! Would you just try to listen to me?”
“There’s no excuse for it!!”
“They were all accidents!”
“Yeah, sure. ‘Oh, I apologize for shocking you; it was a mistake’!”
“She has powers!” the professor finally raised her voice. Tabitha could only imagine the look that the man was giving his wife at the moment. Had she not seen it with her own eyes, had not felt the surge as it escaped her fingers, she wouldn’t had believed it herself!
“… Powers? Wait… she’s a mutant?”
“I know what I saw, before you say that I’ve lost it. The first time I tried to touch her, the shit shot out of her hand! If I hadn’t ducked, I would’ve been fried!”
“What happened to her…?” his voice was calmer.
“I don’t know. She doesn’t even know, I don’t think. She can’t control it as much. I’m thinking that whatever made her that way just happened, you know? She’s in shock, still.”
“Why do you think you can help her?”
“Baby… she shot out lightning. I know I can help her… and I promised that I would…”
“Lightning, huh? That’s your expertise. I don’t know. I truly won’t believe it until I see it.”
“Well… we’ll drop the kids over to daddy’s tomorrow, then.”