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Thread: Shadows Of Death [Worm]

  1. #1
    リビングデッド Living Dead
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    Shadows Of Death [Worm]

    Shadows Of Death

    I


    I woke up.

    I felt like shit. There was no other way to put it. It was not pain, not exactly, but extreme discomfort and soreness. I could still smell it, the hideous waste Sophia had locked me in with in my own locker, that putrid smell that was almost like the smell of a corpse that had be there like background noise as I cried, screamed, pounded and clawed at the door before I lost consciousness.

    That realization made my eyes shoot open. What I found wasn't the suffocating darkness of the locker, not the scape which was too tight even for such a short, willowy girl. Not the lack of air that would force me struggle for breath, nor did I find myself still pretty much buried in.

    I was in a bed. Not my own bed, but quite clearly a hospital bed. I was spotless, as far as I could see, and I was wearing hospital pyjamas. I was fine. Out of darkness. That hell which I couldn't get out and nobody was willing to help me out of was over. But, there was something else. I locked around my surroundings, uneasy, my heart beating unreasonably slowly inside my chest.

    Cracks. All over the walls, ceiling, the floor. Even the shut windows and the hospital equipment. There were dark cracks on everything in my sight. I looked down, and I found that those cracks were in me, as well. I got the urge to scream. But I didn't. I just let out a breath, my vision growing misty with tears.

    I don't know how long I spend on that absolute hell. I didn't suffocate, so it couldn't have be as long as I felt, but evidently, it had be long enough to leave scars. And I don't mean just that it was such a traumatic experience, that it would be burned in my mind forever. No, I was talking about that I loss consciousness in there, in a place where I could hardly breath. They got me out of there in time to save my life, that much was clear, but what I was seeing wasn't normal at all. No hospital could be like this, and even so, I couldn't explain those crack in my own body. There was no reason for them to be here, and since I wasn't bandaged, they couldn't be actually cracks, as they were.

    I extended my hand to touch my other arm, and sure enough, there was nothing. Nothing at all.

    Which meant what happened at left me brain damaged.

    This time, I did scream. I screamed in frustration and rage until my throat went raw, tears streaming down my face. The pain of Emma's betrayal wasn't enough, nor was them pushing away everybody from me, completely destroying any chance I had of making friends enough. Nor pushing me, dropping my stuff to the floor as they passed, destroying my only reminder of my mother and a lot of other things I could remember with stark clarity.

    They had broke me, completely and utterly broke me. They had made my life a living hell. They had made me terrified on going to school, and even in my own hope I couldn't rest, I couldn't be happy. A hell I couldn't escape from, no matter how hard I tried. When every show of resistance only made them crack down on me harder. No, worse, a hell I couldn't even imagine an escape from. They had consumed my life.

    And now, this. They could have easily killed me with this stunt, and while they were utter bitches, they were not completely stupid. They knew that damn well. They knew, and had gone ahead with it. That I survived didn't mitigate the fact none bit. And since I was most certainly brain damaged, that itself would bring a whole lot of other troubles that would only pile up with the rest of the mess.

    I didn't know the extend of the damage. If this was it, I could dealt with, but brain damage cases had a tendency of getting worse and not any better. Dad couldn't afford to pay it, and the fat pig Winslow had from a principal certainly wouldn't assume responsibility that this had happened in her own goddam school. She would just work to shove it under the roof, because… I didn't even know it. To save a reputation that didn't exist was the only answer that came to my mind. What a bad joke.

    Even if he could, I could see the following months, hell, years stretching up in front of me like a void and I didn't like anything of what I saw. It was clear to me, now. I only wondered how could I not have realized it sooner. Those three wouldn't stop, even now. They wouldn't stop until I diec, or until I killed myself.

    I consider it, for a brief moment. To open the window and just take flight and end it all. To my shame, I seriously consider it. But I held that impulse. For what? Because I thought my life was worth living? Because I thought things had to get better? Because if I did so, they won, they finally crushed poor Taylor Hebert? No, none of it. I didn't because I thought about my father, how it would crush it, and what he probably would do after losing both his wife and his daughter in such a short span of time. That was the only thing that stopped me.

    At some point, I realized I wasn't alone in the room anymore. Somebody was pressing me against their chest, hugging me. My father. I had enough presence of mind to realize that immediately. I wasn't screaming anymore. The only thing that came out of my throat were chocked sobs. I hugged him, and closed my eyes. To pretend everything was fine. To pretend I couldn't see those lines. Even if it was only for a few moments.

    I stopped, at some point. To my surprise, I wasn't sedated because of my outburst. Probably, my dad stopped them at some point. I dunno. I told the doctor about these cracks, these lines and I was scheduling for further testing. I didn't look forward to that, it didn't seem likely that they could fix something like that, but at least I had some shred of hope. As thin as it was.



    While I was left alone, I discovering that I had got powers. I didn't really know how to felt about that. On one had, I got powers. On the other, once I calmed down I just felt numb. I really couldn't muster any enthusiasm after a day like today, even over something like that. And it wasn't like it was that great of power, either. I could control bugs. Any bugs, and my range was considerable. Also, I could sense what they sensed. That was it.

    I certainly wasn't going to become an exemplary member of the Wards with this one, that was for sure. Though, this power could easily be used for investigation, and though I hadn't room to test how many bugs exactly could I control, they had obvious fighting applications.

    I could certainly be something, with a lot of time and effort. And it was sort of cool, I guess. In the Batman kind of sense. Strike fear at the heart of the criminals, and all of that.

    I also discovered something more worthwhile.

    Those cracks… they weren't a result of brain damage, but a secondary power. Or primary. It certainly was heads and shoulders above bug controlling when it came down to sheer raw power. You see, when I trailed something over those cracks, it broke. Anything at all, no matter what it was made of. I tested it on several things, from the night stand, to a glass of water. When they left me get outside from a brief time, I tested in on a tree. I traced my finger nail across one of those lines, those weak points, and it crumbled away from that point so easily it was like tearing through paper.

    Of course, it wasn't only objects. Those cracks were over myself, and other people. I hadn't tried it, of course I hadn't tried, but it certainly could also work on them. That was scary, but it didn't dull my new found enthusiasm. It was only natural. Not only did I find out that I wasn't brain damaged, after all, but that I had got a combination of powers that would allow me to help people, to be a hero who could actually do something to fix things. I… I wasn't worthless. Not anymore. I could be somebody my mother and father could be proud of, instead of a powerless little girl who couldn't do anything but be hurt, hide, run and cry where nobody could see her.

    The tests found nothing wrong, and I said I couldn't see the lines anymore. They recommend to send me to a psychologist to dealt with the event, to make sure I didn't kill myself or anything, and my dad wanted me to go, so it was pretty much inescapable. Didn't take him long to schedule weekly visits. Not even that affected me as much as it would have without this, though.

    Anyway, I didn't find a way to turn off those cracks, no matter how hard I tried. But when I was using my bug control power, even if it was to only control one bug, the lines disappeared. I don't really get why, exactly, but I didn't have to get it. After extended viewing of those cracks, my heard hurt terribly, so I started to get in the habit of always controlling a single bug so I couldn't see those lines unless it became necessary for me.

    Also, there was another reason.

    When I still hadn't discovered my bug control powers, when I still thought I had got brain damage, and I was still in bed, terrified and trying to kept my composure, even getting out of bed seemed an unbearable. Is just, I couldn't stand it. Walking in such a fragile world filled me with overwhelming terror, almost like I could felt my death approaching.

    I got accustomed to it. I forced myself to walk, to act normal even when I could see those lines, because what good was a hero who was terrified of her own powers? But that didn't meant I liked it. I much preferred to live in a normal world, where my understanding on the fragility of things wasn't so intimate. A world where I couldn't destroy anything I wished by just tracing a finger over one of those cracks. Or the points that appeared on living beings, along with those cracks.

    It was one of my powers… but still, it was what it was. I imagined myself coming back to school, being tormented again by those three girls even after they put me in the hospital. Having to see those cracks all over their body as they hurt me, as they laughed at me. Knowing that piercing the point with even my fingernail would end everything. Dad had raised me better than that, but I didn't know how much could I manage like that. So it was relief that I had away to turn it off, in that sense. Didn't change that I could turn it back on whenever I wished, that if I really loosed it that wouldn't be an obstacle, but at least it wouldn't be constantly reminded of it.

    They deserved dying for what they had done, getting killed for shoving me in the locker and not caring that I could easily die. But, I just… I just couldn't do it. I didn't want to become that sort of person.

    No, that wasn't quite the whole truth. Allowing them to twist me so much I would kill them would meant, at the end of the day, that they won. That they completely erased the person I'm. So, I don't want to do it. I wouldn't take shit from then, not anymore, not after this. But I wouldn't kill them.

    After getting discharged from the hospital, I asked my dad to buy me a tape recorder. I couldn't record what happened before, but it could start from now, build a backlog. Also, I had something in mind that could get me rid of those three girls. Could. It wasn't a hundred percent sure, but it was pretty much my best chance.

    Bug control was a better power that it seemed.

  2. #2
    リビングデッド Living Dead
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    II

    I entered the school. Despite everything, despite that I was so secure in my plans, I still felt nervous. I could stop them, I knew I could stop them if they tried something like the locker again, but my fear didn't have anything to do with logic. It was just, this place was oppressive to me. Where it all happened, and nobody cared at all. That they didn't care wasn't going to matter anymore. I would make them care. But still, I couldn't help but felt uneasy.

    I could see Sophia Hess up ahead, in the crowd. I was in the same class as Sophia, so it wasn't suspicious that I was trailing behind her. I needed glasses, but even at this distance I could see that her phone was on the right pocket. I used a few cockroaches to sneak on that poForumscket, grabthe phone and bring it to me, weaving between the people heading to their classes. I grabbed it, and let them go. I controlled a nearby fly on the wall before the cracks could cover the world again, and pocketed it.

    Before… before the locker, I couldn't have done such a thing. I couldn't have done such a thing, I suspect, if I had only got the bug controlling powers. That I could do this was unrelated to the fact that I had power now. On the contrary.

    When I was in the hospital, I took a wall outside at night. It was a full moon. And I looked into the night with this power. I saw the simple, awful truth people hid from. The ground was like it wasn't even there, and the sky looked like it could fall at any instant. That simple knowledge, that reality could come unravelled so easily, that everything was so fragile… that made me understand all the more the preciousness of life. So, I decided I wouldn't spend even one more second under the thumb of those three bitches. That I deserved better. That there were fun things before that happen, and everything that happen didn't meant I had to stop living.

    Those sincere thoughts I had as I looked at the night sky full of cracks were the only thing that allowed me to gather the courage to act on my thoughts.

    She hadn't noticed it, but I didn't doubt that she would reach for her phone as soon as she was sitting in class, so I moved quickly towards the principals office. I stopped on the way, on a corner where I wasn't likely to be seen, to check the contents of the phone. I found Sophia and Emma talking about doing those things to me, preparing carefully, laughing about it. Laughing about the things they had done. Also, the locker. The bitch was so overconfident she even messaged with Emma about the fucking locker. Not about how they had prepared it, no. She wasn't that stupid. But they were laughing about it. Saying things like I deserved it, that I got what was coming to me. That if they knew who had done it they would make he or her or them a statue.

    But that paled in comparison to what came next. A conversation about it: the flute. Sophia laughing, asking Emma was had got me so desperate to kept such a flute. Emma saying that it had be my only reminder of my death mother, that it was something I had told her before. Sophia saying what a cruel bitch Emma was, that she could learn from her and Emma laughing with her at that as if they were discussing something trivial.

    I barrelled inside the principals office, completely furious, the words on that phone ringing in my ears like a chant. I realized that I had be subconsciously gathering a swarm of bugs, but I pushed them away. I couldn't do that. I couldn't. I repeated that to myself, many, many times, but those words on the phone came to me just as many times, and it was getting hard to remember why it would be such a bad thing.

    The principal looked up from her computer at my arrival.

    "Hebert." her lips pursued into a thin line. "I hope you have a reason to come here, like this. Explain yourself. Quickly."

    "Yes, yes." I said. I walked to the desk, and showed her the phone. "I do have reason. Read it."

    She read it, from top to bottom. Her face paled a little bit. I see. So they weren't just blind and stupid, no. They had be looking the other way. For some reason.

    "This is Sophia's phone. How did you get it?"

    "She dropped it, I picked it up. That's not important."

    "Okay," she admitted. "That was bad. I talk to them, suspend them for a week or two."

    "Suspension? That would be just a vacation for them." I answered. "Its not just that."

    I took off the notebook from my pocket. The notebook where I recorded everything they had done to me, day per day. Wouldn't be concrete evidence, but I had the evidence in the phone to back quite a few things on the notebook, so, maybe, it would stick. I opened it and showed it to her.

    "Everything they have done, day per day." I showed her the phone, too, while pointing at certain accidents. "Sophia pushed me down the stairs when I was near the bottom, making me drop my books. Then she tells Emma that I'm so scrawny that she could have bumped into me and I could have flew down the stairs anyway. Same day, same month, same year, about five minutes later, as you can see from the times of the messages. That same day, Sophia, Emma and Madison cornered me after school and threw my backpack in the trash. Then they talked about talking with other girls in my grade, to encourage them to make fun of me for that. So that they would all cover their noses when I came near, or I say I smelled like garbage. Then..."

    "I see you have list of offences, and proof of it." the principal said, her lips so thin that they had almost disappeared. She brushed hair out of her eyes. "We will dealt with this matter accordingly."

    "And how?"

    "Suspension."

    "I already said it would be just a vacation for them and it would do anything to prevent them for venting their anger to me. I don't want no suspension for them. I just want to be transferred to Arcadia High, leave all this shit behind."

    "I can't do that. There's jurisdictions..."

    "You don't get it, don't you? I'm not asking you. Do it. Then you can kept your precious, non-existent reputation or whatever you're hiding. Or I will leak the contents of this phone, and you will have to face up to what you have done anyway."

    Left unsaid, of course, was the better part. That my only leverage wasn't the contents of the phone.I had the tape recorder dad brought me in my pocket, and it was turned on. So all our conversation had be recorded, and would be recorded. She was giving me all I needed tomake an issue out of it, whatever or not she would admit the truth. I would reveal that, too, if she refused me. I couldn't use this in court, but I could leak it. Or better, I could give it to the PRT. They, at least, had to listen to me.

    "I don't want to make promises I can't fulfil, but I'll try."

    "Try is not good enough."

    "Be reasonable. Do you think I have such influence that I can guarantee you a place in Arcadia?"

    "...No." that, at least, was the truth.

    I considered my options. It was true that the PRT was my best chance, because I was a Parahuman, but I didn't think I was ready to join them yet. It wasn't just that it seemed oppressively close to hight school. I could get past that. The main reason was that, honestly, I wasn't the right shape to go on and fight. Today I woke up earlier for a morning run. I would need a few months of that, and more, because I was out of shape. Well, out of shape implied I was once in shape, so lets just say I was in bad shape.

    I know that, in part, it was only to be expected and I could get the training I needed if I joined the Wards. But I don't want to be seen as the new, incompetent girl. The girleverybody needed to babysit, teach things to. And than that possible annoyance would lead to my experience in the Wards being just another extension of hight school. I meant, hell, I haven't got even a costume yet.

    I had wanted to make myself a costume out of spider silk, which would be something that would take me some time. I at least wanted to wait until I got my costume, got some time to experiment more deeply with bug controlling and learn hand to hand combat. I seriously needed that last bit if I wanted my second power, the death perception, to be of any use as a Ward. If it got caught in a situation when I actually needed to make use of it, if I wasn't good enough to not get killed on the way and accurately trace the lines even in the heat of combat, it all would end messily.

    No, I wasn't quite ready to join the Wards yet. But I still had the option of leaking the information. It was what they deserved, in any case. Maybe the results wouldn't be as fast, but once I turned sixteen, I could take online courses. Talking with my dad about why I wanted to do such a thing would be… awkward, since even though he knew things were bad we didn't really talk about it, but… I just had to dealt with it.

    I remembered what Emma said about my mother's flute, I remembered what I read on that phone. And most of all, everything they had done to me. I wasn't running away, letting them win. It was just that if I stayed here, someday I would take it anymore and I would kill them with this power of mine. Before it would grown to that point, I wanted them out of my sight. If I had to talk about those things to dad to do it, then I would have to do it. Simple enough.

    I nodded.

    "Fair enough." then, because I couldn't resist: "I'm glad we understand each other."

    I turned around, went away and pocketed the phone. I didn't head to class, of course. It would only waste my time. As sooner as I got this done, the better. I hurried down the stairs.

    "Hebert." a voice I could have recognized anywhere. Sophia Hess voice. Had she caught up to what I had done, somehow? No, that was impossible. It was more likely that she had gone out to taunt me, since I hadn't show up from class. I stopped, in the middle of the stairs. I turned my head towards her, held her gaze. She was rather close to me, but not close enough that she could push me off the stairs if didn't react fast enough.

    "What do you want?"

    "My phone." those words almost made me stop breathing. How? She extended her hand. "Give it back."

    "They say all blondes are stupid, but I never believed it until now." I told her. Contrary to my calm tone and my body language, I was getting nervous anyway. "Fuck off. I don't have your stupid phone."

    "So your stay in the locker made you get a bit of backbone. Shame it didn't occur me earlier." she said, so easily. I hadn't turned off the recorder, hadn't intended to turn it off for the duration of the day, so I couldn't miss anything. And it paid off. I had caught on tape she confessing her own crime. "Now, let's see if you can back it up."

    I moved before she even finished her sentence, fully seeing what she intended to do. I was in the ground before she got where I was before.

    "Hiding, running." Sophia took a step down. "Like some little girl. Look's like you haven't changed all that much, Hebert."

    "Stop saying Hebert, please. I might have to start to think you care to remember my name."

    I couldn't outrun Sophia. That was self defeatism at work, but the plain truth. She wasn't the star of the track and field club for her good looks. Well, not just because of her good looks. If I ran away from her, she would catch me for sure and all my chances of making them pay for it would go down the drain. Without the contents of the phone as concrete evidence, the principal wouldn't do shit and nobody would believe me.

    But, we were alone. That went for me, and for her. And there weren't any cameras in it, so footage wasn't a worry. I close my eyes, took a deep breath. Even before I opened them, the lines extended all over my vision, filling the world. As long as I was actively controlling my bugs, I couldn't see those cracks. If they were following a previous order, though, the cracks would still show. I went two steps up.

    And before she could try anything, I bend down and traced with my fingernail the line of death on the step she had be about to take. She lost her footing, and went rolling down the stairs. I took advantage of that. I jumped down the steps, steadied myself and ran for it, hoping that the time I would gain for it would be enough for her to lose track of me.

    "You're…" Sophia's voice, full of anger and incredulity. I had honestly thought that she would even refuse to consider the possibility that I could be a Parahuman, even after something like that, due to how she viewed me. I could have be wrong. Oh, well. If I had be wrong, then all the more reason to join the Wards.

    I ran out of the school, not looking behind me, not trying to listen. I ran, ran, ran. I ran harder that I had even ran in my whole life, and I continued running even when I didn't need to do. I stopped only when my body burned, and breathing almost hurt. I was sweating so much it… I looked behind me, saw none of the trio or any person from my school, sat down on a nearby bank and tried to calm myself down.

    How crazy. The whole thing, from start to finish, had be nerve wrecking. I had resolved to do this, I had prepared all that I needed, and still the unease didn't leave me. So when Sophia realized and came after me, the only thing I hadn't expected, my heart had be about to burst out of my chest. I laughed to myself, feeling a little silly. I took a deep breath, released and I stood up.

    Then I headed towards the PRT's headquarters.

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