Messed Up Things

What do you do when you find out that you can do things other people can't do? Simple- you wait. Eventually, someone will show up on your doorstep, tell you that you're the Chosen One, and send you off on some mildly perilous quest to save the world.
At least, that's what the plot of every fantasy novel ever written tells you will happen. Sometimes, though, real life isn't as neat and tidy as the books you read, and when you've been waiting full years for your destiny to come knocking, the idea of being patient for a moment longer can make you mad. The question, then, is this: when fate leaves you on your own with the power to change the world, what do you do? Believe it or not, the answer to that one is just as simple.
You take matters into your own hands.

(Cover by NamesFromGraves)

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11. No Harm Done

 

As Raegan opened her eyes, the metallic clang and crunch of the impact were still ringing in her head, smashing through her thoughts like metal through glass. The voices she heard were fuzzy, distant, like voices from the other end of a faulty telephone line, drowning in a watery haze of silence. All she could see was sky. It was slate-grey, scorched black around the edges by the darkness that still clung to her vision. Black and white and grey. Other than this, she saw nothing. No colour. Everything was dull and dark and black and white and grey.

Then, she saw green. Someone was leaning over her, and whoever this girl was, she had the most beautiful green eyes Raegan had ever seen. Her hair was white and her face was whiter and her lips were grey as she smiled, but her eyes were dizzyingly bright. Raegan smiled back, and suddenly, she realised that nothing hurt. Nothing at all. She could feel the jagged concrete grating against her right arm and shoulder and hip, but aside from this, she felt nothing. No pain. No blood, no bruises, no broken bones. Nothing at all.

“Oh, shit, Rae!” cried Valerie, and it was then that Raegan realised that her best friend was holding her hand. “Raegan? Can you hear me?”

“Val,” Raegan mumbled, “people in Canada can hear you, you loud fucker.”

Valerie clapped her free hand to her mouth and sobbed, and that sound swept all of the ugly metallic residue from Raegan’s head and pushed the darkness away. Suddenly, she could hear, and she could see, and she could feel, and impossible as it was, she still felt fine. Completely and utterly fine.

“GUYS!” screamed Valerie, her voice thick with tears. “She’s awake! She can talk and hear and all the usual shit! You gotta come see, I’m not even kidding!”

Two sets of footsteps hammered out an echoing rhythm against the concrete as two more people rushed to meet them, and then Raegan felt Evelyn’s voice rippling through her head. “Has she tried moving anything?” she asked.

“No,” said Valerie, “but she’s not very good at that shit at the best of times, so I wouldn’t get your hopes up.”

Raegan allowed her lips to curl into a lazy smile. “That hurt, you little shit,” she said.

“Raegan, what hurts?” Evelyn asked, her usually calm voice shot through with worry.

“Nothing. Like, literally nothing.” Raegan said truthfully. She felt fine. In fact, she felt better than fine.

Evelyn frowned. “Then why’d you say that something hurt?”

“I’m no medical expert,” said Valerie, “but I’m pretty sure that she said that because I insulted her.”

Raegan felt like she’d slept for a thousand years and woken up stronger than ever. Like she’d just taken every drug in existence at once and was now in the middle of a thousand simultaneous highs, a thousand different types of energy screeching through her bloodstream at the speed of light. Like…

“Oh,” Evelyn said, blushing slightly. She turned back towards Raegan. “Um, try moving your hand. Just a little. Like, one finger.”

Like I could do anything.

“Like this?” Raegan raised her hand and stuck her middle finger up. Valerie laughed, but Raegan wasn’t done yet. Enjoying the shocked expressions on her friends’ faces, she braced her free hand against the ground and stood up. She was half-expecting a slight wobble in her step, maybe a bit of darkness creeping back into her vision, but nothing happened. Nothing whatsoever. She looked around, throwing a careless glance over her chaotic surroundings. To her left was the car that had hit her: a gleaming red sports car with the roof down and, to her satisfaction, an ugly dent right in the middle of the bonnet. To her right, a haze of blue lights and neon-painted metal. Police cars. Three officers in yellow vests were talking to a pale, bedraggled-looking man in his thirties or forties, casting odd looks in her direction. They were surprised that she was up, she realised.

They’re surprised that I’m alive.

“Raegan,” said Evelyn, “you have to lie back down. You might be seriously-”

“Nah, I’ll pass. Wasn’t even that bad of an accident anyway, was it? I mean, the limit here is, like, thirty. Right?”

“Rae,” said Valerie quietly, “he was doing sixty.”

Raegan frowned. “You bloody what?”

“He was yelling about it when the police showed up. He was, like…” Valerie’s voice dropped into a low Essex drawl, “I can’t believe this happened! I was only doing sixty! I can’t believe I killed a sweet, innocent little child! She was so young, so optimistic about her future!” Valerie was good at impressions.

Raegan snorted with laughter. At that moment, the man Raegan had seen talking to the police broke free from the throng and rushed towards her, and as he spoke, Raegan could hear that Valerie had gotten his voice spot on. “You’re okay! Thank God,” he said in that ugly accent of his. Then, “Please don’t sue me, kid. I swear-”

“Don’t worry,” Raegan said grimly, “I’m already rich as shit. I don’t need any of your money.”

At that moment, Valerie barged past Raegan and said, “I swear to SHIT, dude, if you don’t fuck off right this second, I’ll show you ways to die that you never even DREAMED-”

“Val,” Raegan said, alarmed by her friend’s sudden temper change, “calm down.”

The driver’s eyes widened. “Yeah, kid. I didn’t mean to hurt your friend, I swear.”

“Yeah, well,” Valerie said, her voice flattening, “no-one ever means to hurt anyone, do they? But people still get hurt, don’t they? And you’re still guilty, even though you didn’t mean to do it. You could’ve killed my best friend, you shitheaded cockwomble.”

Raegan snorted with laughter. “Valerie,” she said slowly, “I am fine.

Valerie took a deep breath, closing her eyes to hide the anger that blazed in her gaze. “If it’d been me,” she said, “I’d be suing your whole fucking family into the gutter. Or worse.” Then she turned around and walked away, muttering, “I gotta go call my dad.”

When she was out of earshot, the driver turned back to Raegan and said shakily, “Your friend’s kind of a psychopath, isn’t she?”

How fucking dare you.

Raegan took a deep breath. That weird, inexplicable high still hadn’t gone away, and she hadn’t taken her pills at lunchtime, and the anger was tensing her muscles and boiling her blood and ripping her mind to shreds, but now, for the first time in her life, she knew exactly what she was going to do with it.

“Have fun ironing my arseprint out of the front of your fancy car, shithead,” she said. Then she gritted her teeth and smashed her fist into his face.

*        *        *        *        *

“Okay, Raegan,” said the paramedic with the blonde-and-blue hair, “This test is called the Finger Test.” Valerie snorted. The paramedic frowned and continued. “It’s to test if your balance has been thrown off in any way.”

The ambulance had pulled up to the kerb more than half an hour ago, and since then, the paramedic had asked Raegan where she was, what her name was, what her friends’ names were, where she lived, what she had eaten for lunch… It was a seemingly endless string of increasingly stupid questions, but once she had figured out how to block out the stupid answers Valerie kept hollering in her direction, she had answered every single one correctly. And, with every correct answer she had given, the look on the woman’s face had changed to one of more intense shock. It was unnerving, really. Her three friends were sitting on the kerb below her; Mara was staring intensely at the ground, Evelyn was watching what was going on in the ambulance with a look of calm interest, and Valerie was drumming her feet on the ground, humming tunelessly and staring at the sky.

“So,” the paramedic said, “what I’m gonna need you to do, Raegan, is touch my finger, then touch the tip of your nose as quickly as you can.” She held her finger up in front of her. Raegan frowned.

“What, you mean, like, now?”

“Yes.”

Raegan did what the paramedic had asked, jabbing her finger into her own face with a little too much enthusiasm. “Ow,” she said. “Is that it?”

The paramedic sighed and said, “Yes.”

“How’d I do?”

The woman wrote something down in her notebook and said, “I’m going to need to talk with the police, confirm the speed the car that hit you was going at. They said it was around seventy, but…”

“Wait a second,” Evelyn said, “Seventy? You mean, kilometres per hour?”

“No. Miles.”

“But…” Evelyn’s eyes widened, and the paramedic nodded.

“Yeah. I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s…” The woman sighed again. “It’s amazing, actually.”

Raegan frowned. “What’s amazing?”

“Well, you’ve exhibited no evidence of bone fractures, muscle damage… not even a concussion. There’s not a single bruise on you. You’re walking, for Christ’s sake. But the survival rate alone for a collision at that speed…”

Evelyn finished her sentence. “It’s less than one percent, Raegan,” she breathed. “Don’t you remember? We learned about this in Physics. How the hell are you okay?”

Raegan shrugged. “I dunno. Guess I’m just a tough badass.” She smiled, but Evelyn didn’t return the smile. Instead, Raegan saw her look up. One of the yellow-vested officers was approaching, looking grim.

The paramedic stood up. “Sir, can you tell us-”

“I’m assuming you want to know the speed. Well, I can tell you now…” His gaze landed on Raegan, and her heartbeat quickened in her chest. “He was doing sixty-nine.”

Valerie snorted. Evelyn gasped. Mara didn’t react.

Raegan frowned and looked up at him. “No shit. So, basically, what you’re saying is…”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, kid,” said the officer, “but by all rights, you should be dead.”

A cold shiver of fear ran down Raegan’s spine, and she nodded. “Alright, then.”

“Guess someone up there really wants you alive.”

The man pointed upwards with a comical expression of reverence, then turned on his heel and walked away. Valerie snorted again, and despite everything, Raegan found herself laughing too. “Is he serious?” Valerie asked. “There’s no-one up there.”

Raegan smiled. “Except Ember.”

“Not anymore,” Valerie said, looking sad. “I mean, the videos have kinda stopped now, right? The last one was way back before Ashwell.”

“Yeah,” said Raegan.

Then Mara spoke. “I guess the prank just got old. You know- for whoever was faking it.”

Valerie sighed. “Y’know, I think you’re right, dude. It was always way too cool to be true.” Then she brightened and said, “But hey- now we’ve got a whole new miracle to get excited about, right?”

Evelyn frowned. “You probably shouldn’t joke about this, Val. I mean…” She gestured towards Raegan. “You still look kind of pale, Raegan.”

Valerie laughed. “Of course she’s pale, dude. She’s Irish.”

“Half-Irish,” corrected Raegan. “Have you not seen how English my mum is?”

“It’s like someone got challenged to build a human using nothing but tea and general snooty poshness.” Valerie grinned. “Speaking of which, your posh family will probably be wondering where their rebellious daughter, those two nice girls and that weirdo chav have gotten to.”

“Yeah,” Raegan said. “We should go.” Evelyn, Mara and Valerie got to their feet, and Raegan jumped down from the ambulance, the last dregs of that weird high draining away into nothing. “What d’you guys want to do when we get back?” Raegan asked as they began to walk. Valerie opened her mouth to speak, but then she stopped, her eyes locking onto something in front of her.

“Dude,” she said, “Look.”

Raegan looked.

A group of green-suited paramedics were gathered around something that lay on the ground in front of the red car, and as Raegan watched, two of them leaned down and dragged a pale and bedraggled-looking man to his feet. Raegan recognised the driver. As he staggered towards the waiting ambulance with a paramedic on either side, his eyes locked onto hers and he yelled, “She’s the one what did it, I swear! The redheaded one.” Blood was running down his cheek and dripping from his chin, and one of the paramedics broke away from the crowd and began to walk over to her. Valerie turned to Raegan. “Dude, what did you do?”

“Uh…” Raegan couldn’t speak.

The man reached them and said, “Yeah, kid, we know you’ve had a hard day, but…” He rubbed his eye, pushing his glasses out of the way. “The driver’s saying you punched him in the face. Now, I’d be inclined to believe him, if it wasn’t for, uh…” He trailed off, then sighed. “Guy’s nose is broken in two places and he was lying unconscious behind his car for twenty minutes. Now, I’m gonna assume that wasn’t you…?” The end of his sentence arched up to form a question.

Raegan didn’t know what to say. “I mean… Yeah. But…”

“But what, kid? You’re not gonna get in trouble.”

She took a deep breath. “I punched him.”

The man raised an eyebrow. “Why’d you do that?”

Raegan’s gaze slid towards Valerie, snatched away in an instant when she saw how freaked out her best friend looked. She tried to keep her voice as blank as possible. “Because he ran me over with his car.”

“Oh.” The paramedic laughed. “Yeah, guess he deserved that. I mean, who the fuck does seventy in a thirty zone, anyway, right?” His laughter trailed off. “Seriously, though, kid. You gotta enrol yourself in that school from the X-Men, or something. This shit’s crazy.” His eyebrows shot up. “Oops. Pardon my language. Anyway, good luck for the future, kid. Guess you got luck on your side anyway, though, right?” He walked away, still laughing, and as Raegan turned to face her friends, she felt more afraid than she had ever felt in her life.

 “What the hell is going on?” Mara said. Her voice was dreamy, distant.

Raegan couldn’t speak, let alone think of a good answer. Eventually, she just swallowed the cold lump of fear in her throat and said, quietly, blankly, “I have no idea.”

Then Valerie spoke. Her words, as always, were accompanied by a slight smile and a playful spark flickering in one green eye, but they still scared Raegan more than anything else could.

“Guess Ember’s not the only superhuman in Emberly.”

*        *        *        *        *

“Right,” said Evelyn, “We’ve got to figure out what to do about this.” She took a seat in the uncomfortable armchair beneath the window, and Mara, Raegan and Valerie arranged themselves on the sofa opposite. Evelyn leaned forwards, drawing an expectant look onto her face. “Any suggestions?”

“Uh…” Raegan was confused. “Like, suggestions about what?”

Evelyn sighed. “Raegan, come on. That wasn’t normal. That was, like, the least normal thing that’s ever happened to any of us. Are you sure you don’t know how it happened?”

Raegan raised an eyebrow, feeling the anger creeping back up her throat. “Oh, yeah. I forgot to tell you guys this one thing. This one time, my family went on holiday to the nuclear power plant, and I decided to go for a fucking swim in the radioactive waste. Then I got bitten by a radioactive one of those weird little shrimp things that can punch with hundreds of times its body weight.”

“Mantis shrimps,” said Evelyn. “Seriously, Raegan.”

“Yeah, I’m being totally, utterly serious.” Raegan said sarcastically, feeling her voice getting louder and higher, twisted out of shape by the anger that boiled in her mind. “Also, my family’s always treated me like I’m a fucking alien, so there’s every chance I could’ve fallen from the fucking sky in a spaceship made of Kryptonite.” Raegan sighed and leaned back, sinking into the sofa cushions, wishing that they would just swallow her up there and then. “Other than that, I got nothing. Can you make a theory out of that, Einstein?”

Evelyn sighed. “I’m guessing this is going to be another one of those things we just kind of ignore.”

“Sounds good.” For a long time, nobody spoke.

Then Valerie took a deep breath and said, “If you ask me, dude, this is a good thing.”

Raegan stared at her. “You fuckin’ what?”

“Well, think about it. The part of this that’s weird is the part where you lived. Normalise the situation and, well…” Valerie looked at Raegan pointedly. “You’re dead, dude,” she said. “Sometimes, something being weird doesn’t make it bad. Y’know?”

Evelyn sighed. “I guess you’re right. I just hate not knowing stuff.”

“Yeah,” Mara said with a slight smile, “We know, Ev.”

“Right,” said Valerie loudly, clapping her hands together. “All in favour of moving the fuck on with our lives and forgetting that this weird bullshit ever happened?” Raegan put her hand up. Then Mara. Then, slowly, Evelyn raised hers. Valerie grinned and lifted her own hand into the air. “Cool. Now, let’s get the fuck on with it, shall we?”

Raegan smiled. “Do we have to tell my parents?”

“Hell no. I mean, not if you don’t want to.”

“I don’t.”

“Good. Then we won’t.” Valerie smiled. “Simple.”

Evelyn cleared her throat. “I should probably go, to be honest. My mum was expecting me back, like, half an hour ago.”

Raegan smiled. “Yeah, okay. See you.”

Evelyn returned the smile before getting up and leaving the room. A few seconds later, the house reverberated with a loud crash as the massive front door slammed shut. Raegan winced. “Man, fuck that door.” She turned to look at Valerie, who was staring at the wallpaper with a thoughtful look in her eyes. “Do you need to leave anytime soon, or…”

Valerie smiled at her. “Actually, yeah. Remember when my dad called me earlier? Yeah. I didn’t hear him that well over the sound of you getting run the fuck over, but-”

“Wow. Cheers, Val.”

“You’re welcome. Yeah, he said that he was having David over for dinner and that he wanted me there.” She frowned and looked thoughtful for a second, then said, “Dunno why, though. I would’ve thought he’d want it to be all romantic and shit.”

Raegan smiled. “David’s your dad’s boyfriend, right?”

“Yeah. Though I swear to shit, they’ve been dating for, like, my whole life. Dunno why they don’t just get married and be done with it.” Valerie stood up, and Raegan did too. Valerie held out her arms. “I know I’m not usually the ‘goodbye hug’ kind of person, but I feel like today kinda justifies one. You know?”

Raegan pretended to think for a second, then nodded. “Yeah, I could go for a hug.”

They hugged, and after a few seconds, Raegan felt a voice nudging at her ear. “I’m so sorry,” Valerie whispered. Raegan was confused.

“Sorry about what?”

“Being distracted. Y’know- when I was walking ahead. If I’d been paying more attention, maybe…”

They stepped away from one another, and Raegan smiled and said, “What could you’ve done, Val?”

Valerie sighed. “I dunno. Nothing, I guess.”

“Besides, I’m fine. Aren’t I?”

“Yeah, you are.” She turned and began to walk towards the door, but paused in the doorframe to say, “I guess we’re even now, right?”

Raegan frowned. “What d’you mean?”

“Well, you thought I was dead. Y’know- after Ashwell. And I thought you were dead today for, like, a solid ten minutes. So we’re even.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Raegan said.

Valerie grinned. “Don’t ever do that to me again, Rae. I swear.”

Raegan laughed. “See you.”

Valerie raised her left hand in a cheery wave. Then she ducked through the door and disappeared from view. Raegan turned back towards the sofa, and as she did, she heard a quiet voice asking, “Do you want me to go, too?”

Raegan felt mean for it, but she’d almost forgotten that Mara was even there. It was an easy thing to do. Mara didn’t talk much, to the point that Raegan could barely remember what her voice sounded like when she wasn’t talking, and she seemed to loathe attention as much as Valerie loved it. She was a strange girl, sure- but then again, being strange was the main qualifying factor for making it into their little group, so Raegan couldn’t hold that against her. She smiled slightly and said, “Nah. Not if you don’t want to.”

Mara returned the smile. “I’ll go in a minute. I just wanted you to know…” She sighed and closed her eyes, like the words she was planning to let slip would be the most painful she’d ever spoken.  “You’re not the only person who’s had weird stuff happen to them.”

Raegan frowned. “What d’you mean?”

“I mean…” Mara opened her eyes- one blue, one brown- and their gaze was oddly intense. “Just recently- like, in the last couple of weeks- weird stuff’s been happening to me, too.”

Raegan’s response was immediate. “Like what? Tell me.”

Mara’s lips parted slightly, but then she clamped them shut and shook her head. “No. It’d sound dumb.”

“I don’t care, Mara.” Raegan used her anger to amplify her words, giving them a dangerous edge. “Tell me.”

“No. Don’t worry about it.” Mara grabbed her phone from the coffee table and stuffed it into the pocket of her hoodie. Then she stood up. “Seriously, it’s probably nothing.” She began to walk towards the door.

“No, Mara! I’m fucking serious. Don’t leave me hanging, I swear-”

Then the door slammed shut, and the sound echoed endlessly through the empty house.

That little fucking arsehole.

Raegan flung herself down on the sofa, buried her face in the cushion, and screamed.

She stayed like that for about half an hour. Normally, when she was angry, she’d go and punch a wall to calm down, but after what had happened that day, she was scared of what would happen if she tried. Besides, her perfect family weren’t due back for a while now; the sun outside the window was only just beginning to set, staining the glass gold, filling her perfect home with a perfect, rosy glow. She would be alone for the next hour or so, so for now, she was free to lie on the perfect sofa in the perfect living room of her perfect house, cursing her perfect life, letting all her imperfections come tumbling out.

*        *        *        *        *

At seven thirty, Raegan’s family came home. Raegan was still lying on the sofa when she heard the front door open, but by the time they made it into the living room, she was already slamming her bedroom door against the noise. She didn’t want to talk. She didn’t want to smile. She just wanted to be alone. She turned on the TV and booted up whatever game was in the disc port of her Xbox, which turned out to be GTA 5. Good. She was ready to waste some fools.

At ten, Raegan realised that she wasn’t having fun, and put her controller down. She had no idea why it had taken her two and a half hours to figure that out, but she supposed that it didn’t really matter. As usual, she’d just needed to waste some time. She turned off the TV and went to get ready for bed.

At ten thirty, Raegan finished brushing her teeth and stomped back along the corridor towards her bedroom. She turned off the lights, got into bed, and pulled the duvet up around her face. Then she closed her eyes and let the darkness close around her like a fist, dragging her deep into the blank oblivion of sleep.

When she opened her eyes again, she could hear faint music drifting across the still-dark bedroom towards her.

Raegan swung her legs over the edge of the bed and stood, stumbling across the room to the TV stand where she had left her phone. As she picked it up, the fluorescent light from the screen splashed lazily over the walls, filling her vision with electric-white shadows. How long had she been asleep? She didn’t know, but the world outside the window was still dark and still and empty. She unlocked her phone. The time was one fifty-two.

As Raegan tapped the Messages app, the music stopped suddenly, and she could see that she had a text from an unknown number. She frowned. It read, How are you doing?

Raegan was confused. Why was some stranger- at two in the morning, no less- trying to start a casual conversation with her? She’d never experienced anything like this before, and yet, as her finger hovered over the reply button, she wasn’t immediately aware of any downside to continuing the conversation. She typed, Pretty bad tbh. U? The reply came almost instantaneously. I’m not doing too great either, actually. Maybe we can help each other.

Raegan frowned again and typed out a reply. Wtf do u want??

I want to help you.

Help me with what??

The screen remained empty for three full minutes, so Raegan knew that the reply was going to be long. It was.

I know what happened to you today, Raegan. I know that you survived something you shouldn’t have, and I know you’re scared, and I want to help you. The same thing happened to me three years ago. I can’t give you answers, but I might be able to help you come to terms with what’s happening to you. Sherwood Park, two-thirty. Meet me?

Then, Kinda goes without saying, but come alone.

A cold jolt of fear crashed through Raegan’s head. This was crazy. How the hell did this random person know all that stuff about her? Eventually, she decided that the best response would simply be, Who tf r u?? She typed the phrase out with shaking fingers and pressed send.

I can’t tell you my real name, but you wouldn’t know me by it anyway. You’d know me by a different name, though.

Ok. Whats ur other name??

For two full minutes, the screen was still. Raegan suspected that whoever was trying to scare her had simply given up, and placed the phone on her nightstand. She turned away, but then her ringtone echoed in the empty room again, prompting her to pick up the phone and look at the new text. When she did, the four words on the screen burned themselves into her vision and echoed endlessly in her head, sending a thrill of terror racing down her spine.

My name is Ember.

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