Chapter Two of Gifts

Written by jrcsalter

Allison had never seen Emma so scared. She walked another step and tried to make the walls shake again. Nothing happened. Her smile disappeared as she looked to the walls, to the television, to the cup on the floor. She made it move; she knew she did, why wasn’t it happening again? Emma saw the confusion on Allison’s face and ventured a step forwards. When everything remained still, she took another step and walked towards Allison. Her slap blurred Allison’s vision and she staggered back.   ‘Get to your room,’ Emma said.   Allison could not compete in a physical fight with Emma, so she left the room, running up the stairs to her penitentiary. A minute later, she heard a fumbling at the door and a click as the lock turned.   She lay on her mattress thinking about what happened. It couldn’t be anything else. She had woken up every night to find her room re-organised, she had been seriously angry at Emma twice and both times, things moved on their own. Why hadn’t it happened again? She looked across the room at her desk and the books that lay on top. Trying to remember the feelings she had earlier, she shook with anger, her mind fixed on the book. She pushed all her feelings into that one object, and after a minute of trying, the book fell from the desk, hitting the floor with a dead thump.   Allison widened her eyes with amazement. She did it.

She practised over the next few weeks, but it wasn’t easy. After her first success, she failed a few times, before doing it again. After the first week, she had mastered the art of pushing books from the shelf, but had yet to be able to manipulate it in any other way.   Emma seemed to be a little better. She regularly brought Allison water throughout the day. But her meals still consisted of bread, so she was surprised when she received a cheese sandwich one day. She looked inside and found a few spots of mould on the cheese, and her surprise faded. She picked out the bad bits and ate the rest. Afterwards, she attempted another go with her new found ability. She placed a pencil on the floor and watched it for a good hour as it did nothing more exciting than roll around. She could have blown on it and been more successful.   She took a rest for about fifteen minutes and tried again. Nothing existed in the room except the pencil in front of her. She projected her hatred into the piece of wood and graphite, everything she had. It had done her a personal wrong and she wanted to kill it, just like it killed her father.   She breathed faster and could vaguely hear her pulse in her ears, a drumroll for the momentous event about to occur. The pencil stood on its end and danced there for a second before spinning upwards and lodging itself in the ceiling. Allison instinctively flew back out the way of the deadly arrow. She stared up at the ceiling, panting as if she just ran a marathon. A smile crept on her lips, and she began to laugh. The sound bounced around the room, an alien noise she barely recognised.   Her success, though, was brief. It seemed mere luck she managed to do that, and she never repeated the achievement for at least a week afterwards. Every day now became one long practice session. She refused to let any troubles with Emma wind her up, and instead, she funnelled them into her efforts. It became a release valve and felt good when she let go of the feelings.   A few months went by and she was able to move the pencil freely around the room. The longer she practised the less she needed to concentrate on her feelings of resentment. It was like learning the guitar all over again. When she first held it, she had to look at the strings and try to remember the chords and notes, but after a while she could pick it up and improvise, all of her lessons forgotten.   Once she mastered the pencil, she tried it with books, her chair, her desk, her mattress. She also tried to move two things at once; it took a few weeks to master just moving two pencils though, and few more for heavier things.   Without a clock or calendar, she lost track of days, but soon she noticed it getting darker earlier, and the Sun to be lower in the sky. She ended up having to keep her blanket over her throughout the day, or wear an extra set of clothes. The window would probably have been single glazed, but she didn’t know how to recognise it if it was, and without the curtains, no heater to speak of, and her door being locked for most of the day, she felt the cold just as much as the heat in summer.   It affected her performance and for a few weeks, she barely moved a sheet of paper. She persevered, though, and by the time the days lengthened again, she seemed able to control everything in her room, even while shivering. Now, was the time to escape.

After receiving her breakfast, Allison heard Emma leave the house and go to work. The lock seemed the obvious way to get out, but she didn’t know how they worked. She tried to remember where she had seen keys on her brief visit downstairs, and recalled a set of hooks by the door. She had never operated blind before so she did it slowly and carefully. As she concentrated on the key, she saw it in her mind. She didn’t imagine it; it was as if she stood in front of the door. She could look around and take in every detail, from the textured wallpaper, to the amount of wear on the keys. She had time before Emma returned so she explored this unexpected ability. Moving left she came to the large kitchen. She heard the hum of the fridge and smelled the remains of a cup of coffee. Continuing around, she came into the living room. It was the same as the one and only time she visited, except the television had been replaced. Moving back around to the front hall, she resumed her task. Many keys hung on the wall, so she took them all. She brought them upstairs and slid them under her door. A ball of excitement exploded inside her. She was going to be free.   Ruffling through the keys, she eventually found the right one and unlocked the door with satisfying click. Slowly, she opened the door, feeling the warmth of the well heated house. Adrenaline coursed through her as she leapt down the stairs three to four at a time. Searching through the house, she found some food and devoured it. It felt good to be able to eat something other than bread, and the flavours seemed new and exotic to her dilapidated tastebuds.   She poured herself a drink and after she had enough, she found an empty two litre bottle and filled it with water. She threw a few sandwiches, chocolate bars and crisps into a bag she found in the cupboard under the stairs. She also found a twenty pound note lying on the kitchen table and felt as little guilt in taking it as she had the food and water. All the shoes she found belonged to Emma and were at least four sizes too big, so she decided to go bare. Going back upstairs, she took her writing, a few bits of paper, and some pencils. The bag wasn’t too heavy and she thought she could afford to fit a book inside, so she dropped in The Lord of the Rings.   Looking around her room, she smiled, and as she left she caused the desk and chair to fight until both cracked and splintered into unrecognisable pieces. Taking one of Emma’s coats didn’t please her but it was cold outside so she needed it. Opening the front door, she stepped out to freedom.

Allison woke up to the sound of bird song. She blinked her eyes in the brightness of the low Sun and saw a small robin watching her. It tilted its head, chirped, and then flew off into a leafless tree above her. Allison rolled out from under the hedge and over the frosted grass. She stood up and stretched. It was not the most comfortable bed, but it sheltered her from any rain or harsh winds. Her dew soaked clothes stuck to her skin, but she figured a few hours travelling would dry her out. Slipping through a gap in the hedge, she began her second day’s walk along the country roads south. At midday, she rested for ten minutes before heading out again. An hour later, she came across a small village. The main square proved easy to find, and she entered a newsagents to buy a small pasty and energy drink. She didn’t want to buy much in case she ran out of money before reaching Devon. It had to do for an entire day, but compared to what she was used to, it seemed like a feast.   She slept under another hedge that night, and the following day she continued walking. She didn’t really know which way to go, so she headed in a southerly direction and would hopefully come across some sign directing her to a specific place she knew. She bought another pasty and energy drink at the next stop she came to, and met her first bit of luck regarding her hitchhiking efforts. Overhearing a customer saying she was going to Wales, she asked for a ride. The woman, called Lara, kindly accepted.   Lara didn’t talk much during the journey but put the radio on and Allison felt like it was the first time she heard music. The only notes she listened to over the past few months had been those in her head. A few new songs had come out in that period, many of which she didn’t care for, but some which weren’t too bad. At a service station, Lara bought a small lunch for Allison, which she very much appreciated. They continued until Manchester, where Lara would turn west. Allison thanked her for the ride and began another trek south.   A day and a half she travelled before someone else agreed to let her ride. Climbing into a blue Escort, she sat next to the driver. He was a short man of just over five and a half foot, with short blond hair and grey eyes set into a round face. He wore a light blue shirt that looked as if it had been stuffed into a drawer for a while. His jeans were the same and his brown leather boots were dusty and well worn. Despite his age appearing thirty, he seemed much older, as if he experienced more than the average man of his years. ‘Alayanaþa Aiðalisonna. Æn Luŋcon.’ He said.   Allison replied without thinking. ‘Alayanaþa Luŋ—’ She stopped, realising what just happened. ‘Where did you learn Afirian? And, more to the point, how do you know my name?’   ‘I had to first check you were Allison. I was told I would meet you … sometime today. My source was vague.’ He pressed down the accelerator and turned the car back into the road. Allison suddenly decided hitchhiking was not a good idea. Who was this man? ‘Who said I would be here?’ ‘Someone I ran into,’ Luke said. ‘Literally. Thought he was mad at first, but he spoke perfect Afirian, and the Angelic variety at that.’   ‘Afirian means angelic,’ Allison said, confused.   ‘Yes, it does, but the speech you know, having been to Eden, is the original version. When it was brought to Earth, it evolved into many separate dialects and eventually completely new languages. More people know the terrestrial version which is similar, but allows for … Anyway, not to bore you with divine etymology, basically, if a prophecy is spoken in Afirian, everything in it will pass, whereas others can usually be avoided. They can be spoken in a variety of languages, English, Latin, Spanish … heck, I even heard one in Klingon before. But if it’s in Afirian, you had better listen.’   Allison looked at him for a few seconds and asked, ‘Klingon?’   Luke seemed a little embarrassed and mumbled, ‘It was a … convention in ’95.’   ‘What were you doing there?’   ‘Trying to put my vulcan ear on after it fell off.’   Allison laughed. He didn’t seem to want to do her harm, but Allison kept an eye on him and her powers ready.   ‘Long story.’   ‘Well, we have a long trip ahead of us.’   The next two hours passed quickly enough for Allison. Luke spent much time elaborating on his Klingon prophecy experience, often explaining the intricacies of the language, like its OVS word order, or lack of a normal greeting. Allison wondered how many languages he knew, and how many of those would actually be useful.   She told him of her experiences over the last few months, and he had the same to say as Cat. ‘It was a horrible thing to happen, but on the bright side, if it wasn’t for her, you wouldn’t have your powers now.’   ‘Doesn’t make it right,’ Allison said.   ‘No. Nothing will ever do that, but it’s over now. You’ve tapped into something extraordinary and pretty soon you’ll be able to read people’s minds; maybe even the future.’   ‘Really? Like a prophecy?’   ‘No, a prophecy is a vision given by the Fates. What you’ll be able to do will be more than that.’   ‘So, how does it work then? How am I able to move things with my mind?’   ‘No one knows for sure, but many reckon it has something with you being able to manipulate electric energy, similar to how a balloon can pick up pieces of paper. Because you have a mind and a balloon does not, you’re able to control the energy, rather than merely create it. With telepathy, it’s a little more complicated. Scientists have been able to “read” the minds of people who have a brain scan. They know what areas of the brain function for certain things. You should be able to detect those readings and decipher them.’   ‘So, how would I know what they’re thinking?’   ‘Well, I have this theory. Most people have the same kind of brain and if the same area becomes stimulated, you may feel what another is feeling. On a more fundamental level, you may even be able to pick out specific ideas. Understand that it’s not like people speak to you with their minds, you can’t make out words, you just get the meaning.’   ‘So,’ said Allison, thinking, ‘it’s very much rooted in science?’   ‘Of course, everything is.’   ‘And it’s not supernatural or anything?’   ‘Nothing’s supernatural. That’s a term made up to describe things that aren’t easily explainable, but they are perfectly natural things. Just not entirely understood.’   If science could explain her abilities, did that mean God wasn’t involved? Did it nullify all the other events, the disappearing girl, the garden, her apparent resurrection? Could science explain those too?

By around one o’clock, they reached Devon, and Luke pulled into a service station.   ‘Right,’ said Luke, ‘this is as far as I go. You’ll have to make your own way home from now.’ He got out of the car with Allison.   ‘Thanks for the lift,’ she said. ‘It would’ve taken a few more days if not for you.’   ‘Yeah, that’s alright. Listen, you should be contacted by Atharron soon. He’s … well, he’s Atharron. Don’t get on his bad side. He’ll train you up and make sure you know which end of the sword to hold.’   ‘Sword!?’   ‘Your opponents will have the same powers as you, but you’ll need a physical weapon.’   ‘Okaaay.’   ‘Anyway, I may see you around. Oh, also, here’s a bit of cash to get home, should be enough.’ He held out a couple of twenty pound notes.   ‘Thanks,’ Allison said, taking the money.   They said their goodbyes and Allison watched him walk off towards a dark haired woman.   Allison left and made her way to the nearest train station. She only had a few miles to go and readily used Luke’s gift to buy a ticket. Her train didn’t stop for another hour, though, and her restlessness made her pace up and down the station, impatient for the train, and annoyed when she heard it was delayed by three minutes. She constantly looked at the clock to find out when it would arrive.   When the train finally did arrive, she ran to a door and rushed inside to sit down as if it would make the train depart faster.   During the next fifteen minutes, she was, again, constantly moving, watching the time, occasionally whispering for it to hurry up. When the train began to brake, she leapt from her seat and rushed to the door. It slowed down at the station and paused for a few seconds before the doors opened. She didn’t wait for them to fully retract, pushing through them and landing on the platform running.   She sprinted out the station, and towards Kate’s house, feeling a stitch grow in her belly. She ignored it and just held her abdomen without breaking a stride. After half a mile of running, she reached Kate’s street and down to her door. She skidded to a halt and banged on the door, her finger pressed on the bell until it opened.

Cover image: by JRCSalter


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