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   Chapter 26 Dead Meat and Butterfly Kisses

Blog of a Teenage Superhero By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 14749

Updated: 2017-12-05 19:05

Chip, Kai, and Finn slump in silence under the wedges of moonlight. The only interruption comes every five minutes or so when Chip grunts a change of direction and Kai grunts back a “Yep“ or a “Great“ or a “Got it.“ The economy car squeals, saran-wrap whapping in the cracked windows. Each boy is drenched. Kai slips in The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack and no one so much as twitches.

"Here," says Chip as rain pelts the windshield in a hurl of white streaks. Palm trees whip on either side of the gray craggly road, and out where the street disappears in the thick velvet mist, the sea rises in gray billows. As per Chip“s order, Kai swings the car onto a gravel path that leads into the dead, dark woods. Time warps in the stuffy car, the red numbers flickering before they turn, drawing to an agonizing crawl the deeper each miserable boy is dragged into the forest. Finn crosses his legs on the dash, thumping his heels, and Kai is so tense he won“t even yell at him.

The Sleepover Ranch is a crumbling shack buried in untrimmed hedges and vines, lost in the scraggly forest where Silver Dollar is less city and more of a dirty, mud-filled backcountry carved with puddly roads. The whitewash is peeling, the long, T-shaped home covered in a web of cracks, topped with a caved-in cinder roof. Three vans are parked outside. Finn narrows his eyes and scribbles license plate numbers on his wrist with a half-dry pink highlighter.

Mud sprays from the tires of a revving van that backs off the pebbled path, thrumming softly, the windshield-wipers beating the window. "Follow them," Chip says.

"Call the police!" Finn slams his fists on the dash. "Kai," he begs, eyes big and round, "please."

Kai turns up his nose and turns the car around, following. Another van revs up, flanking the boys, a flash of white in the whirling mist. Finn lunges over Kai, thrashing against his lap belt. Kai, helpless as he grips both hands on the wheel, cusses bitterly as Finn snatches the dying Nokia tucked above Kai“s heart. He dials. The 911 operator is cool, her voice the steady type that oozes with quiet authority, the type you“d want telling you the fundamentals of CPR or to stay calm when you“re bleeding out your guts. "911, what“s your emergency?"

"Friend“s been kidnapped." Finn crosses his legs, leaning back in the cracked leather seat. "Two of them, actually." He twirls a strand of bleached hair around his forefinger, his smile smug as he glances over his shoulder at an awestruck Kai. The vans brush Kai“s car, crunching the aluminum with a shriek that drives a shriek from Chip.

"Alright, sweetheart, let me transfer you to the police department—"

The van on the right clips the passenger side with a rev of the engine. WHAM! Finn is sent screaming over the glove compartment, the airbags deploying a second too late. They hit him like pillows stuffed with concrete. Kai screams, thrown forward into the dash. Powder falls like snow from the popped bags. Finn chokes.

"Sir?" the phone buzzes, caught between the seat and Finn“s knee. "Sir?"

Finn holds up his shaky hands, finding them pink, sore, splattered in a spray of warm blood. He touches the corner of his swollen lip, shuddering at the metallic ooze dribbling down his skin. "Kai. Chip?"

Chip groans. "I“m good."

Kai is slumped forward in the thick white plastic, his hair rusty with blood. "Kai!" Finn grabs him by the shoulders, his heart racing as he checks his friend“s neck for a pulse. Fast and strong. He sighs as Kai wakes groaning in the deflating bubble-wrap. A triangle of vans has formed around the car. One swung in front, blocking all possible paths of escape. Another on their left, another on their right. A man in black glares at them from the driver“s seat of the vehicle currently bashed into Kai“s own.

"Oh," Kai says, shaking his head, dazed. His dark eyes are half shut, his knuckles scraped pinked and oozing. "Shit. I think, I think we“re—"

"Dead meat?" Finn asks, rubbing his red eyes as rain whips through the crushed window. It“s a pitiful sight. Three drenched, shaken, miserable kids, reveling in their own demise. The boy in the driver“s seat nods sleepily while Chip cusses.

At last, something they can agree on.


Grungy red carpet, torn from the seams. Tattered drapes. A superhero pacing the darkened hallway like a red streak of whiplash. I“m propped against the moldy wa

s into both my sides so Comet can“t tell I“m bracing my fresh stitches. But she notices, I“m sure she does. She squints at me, chin tucked in the cusp of her hand. "You, I assume, have more combat experience with him?"

I wince down at my side. "Yes, ma“am."

"And Percy, you know him on a more personal level."

"Eight years," she says glumly.

Red Comet rakes her hands through her hair, smoothing knotted strains against her shoulder. When she paces, she hobbles, her leg crooked at the knee. There“s a gash running up the red scales of her costume, a deep one, but it“s only slight wobble in that leg betrays the pain. Had I not been staring so creepily close, I would“ve missed it, for sure.

She crosses her arms over her powerful chest. "Then you“ll know better than I will how to combat him. My powers have been drained but I can still take on a few of his henchmen." More than a few. Though he“s been a superhero for decades, the age only shows in her eyes. Even without superpowers, she bristles with liquid strength.

Percy turns to me for direction, her eyes glistening in the orange gaslight. "Onyx?"

I was not born with powers. I was not told how to use them or what it meant to be a hero. No hand guided me through training, no fund was left in my name to be squandered on million-dollar gadgets. And no one told me how to react when that power was taken away.

Outside, I hear a crunch of metal, a shriek of tires spitting gravel. The sound grates on my senses like a metallic scream. My heart pounds, caged in my chest. "Max was scared," I say mulling the words softly over my tongue, "he ran. Something“s happening outside—"

"My team." Comet“s eyes are lit up like flint. They“re dark brown, unlike her daughter“s, but they contain the same intensity, the same warmth. Percy is already down the hall, whipping me a quick look over her shoulder. "Rest."

And then the two are gone, leaving me alone to the silence of my rickety prison. My hands cup my oozing side. There“s a buzz under my skin, still, where the pains coalesce into a unnamable ache. I hobble to the window, batting away tattered netting and damp splinters of plywood pinned in the window.

The motel is framed by thick, overgrown forest, concealed in the throes of a starless night. Wind and freezing rain lash my face through fragments of glass. Out where the tangles of overgrowth slope into the muddy groove, I can just make out the twisted metal, the vehicular carnage. A flash of silver drives a squeak from me that materializes far closer to a scream.

Kai“s car.

Kai is going to be so pissed.

If he“s still alive.

A fire lights in my belly, my systems wired electric with that sense of doom, sense of fear. I“m hurt, yes, fragile, yes. But I can“t rest. I punch through hanging shreds of glass and vault through the open window, holding the stitches so I don“t undo Percy“s handiwork.

This, I decide, is where I end this.

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