Edward was home. His mother was not, but lunch had been kept in case he returned earlier than her. Ignoring those, he hurried to his room, dropped his bag to the floor and sat over the bed, head buried into his hands in frustration, his body trembling. He was beyond dirty for one: clothes torn, sweaty from literally running home through rough routes so as not to be seen. He was nervous and his mind in disarray. His heart throbbed without halt as he pondered on what was going on with him. The headache still remained, only a lot tolerable compared to earlier that day. But today at least he could still think with a clear head.
He pulled his shirt off and reached for the new desk his
father had got him the other evening. He pulled out its drawer and took his
medications. About throwing the pills into his mouth, something in the mirror
caught his attention. Shocked at first, assuming someone was behind him, he
turned, but no one was other than himself and his reflection. The person in the
mirror very much was him. Only not himself from earlier that morning or a night
before. Not himself that he remembered.
His muscles were stiffer. His shoulders thicker and broad. His chest was firm and a lot more fleshy than the bony him. Strangely still, his face had taken a slight twist: chin firmer and his flesh fitting completely. He could tell this change because he was very conscious of his body above everything else. Always has been. Strangely, he scoffed. He felt this sting of excitement rush through his mind, accompanied by a thought. “This is cool,” weighing his muscles. If it were a dream, he didn’t want to wake from it.
Edward woke late the next morning, springing down the stairs in hurry, all dressed for school, thrilled and full of life, and a self satisfactory smile up his face, one to which his mother hadn’t seen in a very long while. She noticed the change in his appearance, but quickly took it as a product of better sleep and a good mood. Edward scrambled into a dining chair. Food wasn’t out yet but he could see his dad’s plate had been emptied. As usual he had been the first to wake up, with exception of the wife, the first to eat and the first to head out for work.
Edward stared at the clock and figured he was way too late to get something to eat. And since he didn’t have a bicycle that could move him to school that day, it probably was best he left on time. So he walked into the kitchen. There his mom was, cutting through vegetables.
“Mom I’m late and really have to go,” he beckoned on her, walked over and pecked her from behind. She turned with a smile on her face.
“Aren’t you hungry?”
“Not entirely. It can wait,” he smiled, winked and headed for the door.
“Are you okay? You woke up late today, which is unlike you. Plus you seem very alive today,” she said, amused how he walked as though he could literally fly.
“Oh.” He stopped by the kitchen’s door, turned. “Well I slept late.”
“Practicing? What were you practicing?” she asked, failing to hide her curiosity marked by her son’s demeanour.
“Um, I—um —it—football. Yes football. Was working on a certain skill,” He found himself stuttering, regretting why he had talked about sleeping late at all.
“Football? In your room?” Her brows rose, confused.
“Ma, I’m late. Later. Love you. Bye.” His voice rode off alongside his running feet. She heard the door squeak and shut close. He was gone.
She dropped the knife and with a serious and suspecting face, she headed up the stairs for his room. She could tell a lie when she heard one, much less a half baked one. Turning the door open, she glanced in quickly and around. There was no one hiding in his room, nor was there any feminine clothe nor scent that was where it ought not to be. She suspired, and retracted her head. Closing the door before her.
Had she fully come in though, she would have seen something hidden away by the wardrobe. On the wall were crack lines spreading to all corners of that axis. And their origin was the center. On that center was a deep disfigurement on the wall, taking the near shape of a clenched fist.
Edward walked into class late. He hurried to his seat and sat down. A grin had been on his face since he walked in, and sense of confidence along with it. While the class began, he had a very naughty thought on his mind, but to actually do it he had to first confirm something.
Seating next to the wall, he hid his arm in between his desk and the wall. Staring at it, forehead creased and a little nervous, he inhaled, and then exhaled. The armour as he called it, seeped out and over his hand. He grinned. He thought it out and it receded. The sleepless night wasn’t a waste after all. And none of it was a dream.
Sasha sat with her friends during the lunch break when Edward walked over to their table of four and made it five. A bright smile firmly sat on his face. Sasha like the others was more shocked than she was angry. His eyes were on hers, and the boldness in them got her embarrassed. It was something that wasn’t there before then. Something she had never seen.
“Hey,” he said, totally ignoring the others whose mouths were wide open, stung by surprise.
One of the girls barked, “Are you out of your mind?”
Edward ignored her, his smile retained, and eyes fixed on
Sahara. “Was thinking. What do you say we hang out sometime, say tomorrow
after school?” His hands moved in gesture to his words.
Sasha kept mute, face stunned and unable to speak. The confidence was striking, and his eyes weren’t flinching. They were firm, almost intimidating.
“You got some nerve,” the second girl smirked, then frowned. “Stanley is going to—”
“Mind if you shut your big mouth?” His voice cut in, gentle but firm and exhuming a sense of order in need of obedience. His eyes remained unmoved from where it had been. He continued, “I was talking to her, not you, loudmouth.” The smile returned to his lips.
“Are you out of your mind?” Sasha finally spoke, yet unable to find her usual tone. Not at all as harsh as she had wanted to sound.
“I guess I am.” Edward raised both shoulders, indifferent. A grin of mischief appeared over his face, eyes unmoved from Sasha’s. So much she blinked, looking away for a second. He sighed. “Besides, it’s nothing to be ashamed about. I like you real lot.”
The bell rang spontaneously, its pitch high and resonating. Edward leaned back with one push of a sigh, stood to his feet. He took from her plate a peppered potato slice, biting softly into it. He winked at Sasha, turned and walked on away.
Sasha and the others sat there, confused. Something was off.
That wasn’t the boy from the day before, and the day before that. There was
much more high esteem in his demeanour this time. Sasha amidst her brief recovery,
reached for phone, dialled into it and placed it over her ear.
School had ended a few minutes earlier that afternoon and as usual Edward was at the locker room, placing his textbooks back into their places. He hummed along a song with ease and a carefree attitude that usually never existed when it had anything to do with him. He heard heavy stomps from across the other end of the hallway, and judging by the fact that he was the only one present in the hall, he figured he knew who it was. For some reason this made him grin. Something boiled deep within him, some unholy matrimony between anger and excitement.
The stomps were loud and fast approaching. They were the footsteps of an angry man, someone angered on the onside. And although he could half guess who it was, he turned his head to meet the said boy. Before he could complete his turn, an arm had seized him by the collar, spinning him hard, enough to face the said boy. As the face registered, a vigorous bash made way into his face. He lured and hit the ground, groaning.
The pain struck and stung through every fibre of his being: his brains, his heart, his body, his skin. He —although had figured something of equivalence was going to occur— was as shocked as he was upset. A gush of anger billowed through his entire body. He turned from where he lay and looked up. There stood Stanley, the boy who agreed to being a bully. His face was squeezed, eyes cold, fists clenched, breathing deep and his body quivering in anger.
“You thought I was joking when I said I’d rip your teeth out?” He snarled. “Did you?!”
He lurched back for Edward, grabbed and pulled him back up.
Once up, Stanley’s fist rammed straight back into his face. The same spot, the
same space, the same momentum, only that this time, it was a totally different
kind of sensation. It wasn’t bone beneath a fragile lump of skin.
Edward staggered back. Stanley reached for his bloodied fist, muttered a groan, which quickly turned into a scream. He was on his knees, head bowed and his left arm holding unto his limp right, the pain of broken bones struck his entire arm. He had hit something, something not flesh, something he couldn’t tell. But it certainly wasn’t a face he’d hit. He had put his everything in that punch.
Edward turned back to Stanley whose head was bent to the ground as he cried and massaged his sore, probably broken finger. Part of his face on which the punch had landed was covered in the amour’s black magnificence. Though the eye on that part of the face took the same shape and colour, the other which stood out normal, depicted a stare telling of overwhelming fury. Edward’s fists were clenched, the armour coated itself around both, just as the part on the face receded into his skin. He had been working on this all night, learning how to summon which and when. Though imperfect, he at least knew how to get it around his arms. He lurched for Stanley, arm back and thrusting at full blind force for the helpless, inattentive boy before him.
His thrust was suspended very few inches from Stanley still in excruciating pain and shock thus yet to look up. As he pushed his arm further down, a muscle kept it from advancing. Since his arm was armored and made him insensitive to touch, it took his turning head to realize that someone’s hand, firmer and stronger, was gripping against his own from his side.
“Are you out of your small goddamn mind?” the stranger snarled. He looked older, though in his early twenties. His eyes were black, a crease on his forehead. He looked and was in fact taller, his hand unnaturally large and wide enough to wrap completely around Edward’s arm.
“Let go of me!” Edward’s left arm plunged sideways. It was fast and sudden. It would have taken maximum speed and expertise to actually either dodge or deflect such thrust at such close proximity. And if ever it did hit its target successfully, with the armour coated around his fist, nothing would ever fix the ruins that would be inflicted on the bones of said face, if at all the victim had chances at survival.
It did however hit.
The stranger levered back, hit hard against the floor, toppling over thrice. And on his last tumbled thud, he was crouching back on a knee, head bowed, hand on his face where he’d been hit, breath elevated. Looking up to meet Edward’s face, he could see the stranger’s face squashed in. His jaw obviously broken and shifted from its joints. Then, like a stretched rubber heated by an oven, his bones and skin moved, and fast. A second after to Edward’s gasping shock, the young man’s face was back to its young and fairly handsome features before the punch. His eyes were stiff, and a visible annoyance marked the smoothness of his face.
“Hey, get the hell out of here!” Edward heard from behind him. He turned to the feminine voice yelling authoritatively at Stanley. There stood two other strangers, one male and the other a female. The boy pulled Stanley up and pushed him to run for the door, which Stanley did, without looking. Watching him run, Edward was soiled with anger. He turned to the two, both neatly dressed with an aura of class and taste around them. He didn’t know either of them, neither Mide nor Dike.
Mide turned to Edward, surprise in her eyes. “You were really going to hit him with that?” She pointed at Edward’s armoured fists.
“You’d actually have crushed his head if we hadn’t gotten here on time, seriously?” Dike scoffed, but not at all finding it amusing. His face was strict, his eyes blazing cold.
And somehow, that statement shot a feeling of common sense into Edward. It hit him then like ice, that sudden realization soaked him like wetness. He would have really killed Stanley. He questioned what he was thinking, what he was doing.
Ham growled, visibly annoyed as he rose and marched forward. “Oh I’m gonna break this kid in half.”
Mide sighed. “Come on, Ham. This isn’t time to do this—”
“This bloody fool punched me,” Ham barked angrily, yet coming off as funny to the others, “Without hesitation!”
“Yeah, that part, pretty stupid move,” Dike concurred. He stared at Edward who stood there, eyes moving from one person to the other, depending who was speaking, totally dumbfounded. They all spoke casually like they knew him. And even after seeing what he had done and what had happened with his skin, they didn’t look at all perturbed. Dike continued, “If it wasn’t him, you could’ve killed someone, two people in one day. You got serious anger issues, kid.”
“It happened to us all at one point in time. That intoxication thingy,” Mide excused it, noticing the shock and sense of sudden guilt on Edward’s face. She didn’t like it quite much.
“I never tried to kill someone intentionally in my time,” Ham huffed, already making his dislike for Edward obvious.
Dike shook his head. “That’s enough, Ham. Should we take him home or to Panam? He said we—”
A voice, feminine, smooth and tiny called out from a distance. Mide stood and turned like the others. And of course, it was whom they knew it would be. “I’m afraid I’d like to take him now if you’re done talking.”
“Venom,” all three chorused. Less pleased, at the same time not entirely surprised.
“She’s cute,” Edward said absentmindedly, unable to take his eyes off the new girl. She was tall, with black intimidating eyes, a trimmed worn blonde hair which matched her caramel skin, on all black-fitted suit hugging her body tightly and making apparent her curves which perfectly suited her slender shape. Her face was rich in perfectly applied light makeup, yet he could almost swear she’d look roughly the same without it, much like Sasha.
“Aren’t all snakes so?” Mide said.
“No, seriously. She’s dead cute,” Edward muttered.
“Surprised?” Venom had a mischievous grin on her face. By her side was another boy, Legion, usually tagged Daemon’s army. And just like his name, he was an army of hundreds, strong hundreds. He was around five foot tall, body of a teen, but his age remained uncertain as he wore on him a black mask, and barely spoke.
“Was wondering when this would get a lot more fun.” Ham said, grinning. He walked closer to stand where the others stood. Dike turned to him, surprised.
“I don’t see how this would be fun. This is a public place. I’m not in for long range fights. And we were sent to retrieve, not engage.” Dike gritted his teeth, but Ham didn’t seem to care.
“Don’t worry. I got the RS with me.” Ham smiled, obviously eager to fight someone or something.
Designed by Usman, the Reality Swapper had the capacity to alter reality by pushing those within its radius into an alternate reality where everything from the original reality was visible, only that it isn’t the original reality, and thus damages done within it didn’t affect the actual reality. Though in most cases, some Abnormals had been noted to be so strong that their abnormalities tend to rip through the RS’s ultra illusion. Daemon was one, Aeon was another, to name a few. And though it still was in its beta version, Usman believed it could, at a not-too-far-off future, be useful.
“Wait— you what— you stole the RS from the shelf?” Nellie yelled from all their bugs.
“Oh please.” Ham rolled his eyes like he could see Nellie. “This psychotic girl here’s got a ring that absorbs heavy Abnormal Kinetic energy on impacts. In my dictionary, that’s cheating. You think it’s wrong to try rig the game in our favour too?” Then he turned to Dike, gesturing at Edward. “Too scared to fight? Then go babysit.”
“What in heaven’s name is going on here?” Edward whined, frustrated from all the awkward code talk. It was dawning on him that he was beginning to see more and understand less.
“Complicated,” Mide breathed, took a complete turn to face the new comers. “This probably is the part where I tell you to take a few steps back and make sure to never get touched by that girl.”
“Why?” Edward turned to her, face dropped. “I just said she is cute. I’d not mind being touched by—”
“Exactly how great men die. Problem is, you’re neither a man nor anything vaguely resembling great,” Mide scowled.
“Oh,” Edward muttered, figuring there was a point there. He took three paces backwards almost immediately. For some reason, he felt he could trust these people. For some reason, he felt there really was a need to step back.
“Give me the boy. He is ours and I believe you already know this.” A sadistic tone hung on Venom’s voice, her grin turning mischievous and full of contempt.
“Wait, why is she talking about me like that? Like I’m some toy,” Edward barked from behind the trio, picking offense at Venom’s tone in regards to him, a frown morphing up his face.
“Apparently, that’s what she sees you as: some plaything,” Dike scoffed, noticing Edward’s quick irritation. Even if they were going to take the boy in, a lot of time was going to be needed to teach him about self-control and anger management, because he lacked all forms of refinement.
“And what’s the conceited look for?” Edward growled again. Forehead creased, referring to the smug on Venom’s face.
“Oh well… because she has us outnumbered, as always.” Mide raised her brows, depicting typicality as Ham pulled out a device from his jacket. It was small and cubicle, and had a black button on its center. That was the RS.
“You’re outnumbered?” Edward scoffed, amused. It was amusing as he saw three of them there, plus himself if the need arose for whatever it was, and at the other end, there were just the conceited lady and a short boy. But that was just for a second.
Like an illusion in his very clear eyes, there stood three of them. Venom, the short boy — and the short boy again. There were now two short boys, two of him. Then they further multiplied. From the original, other lookalikes pulled themselves out. Clones, same height, same stance, same everything. One, two, three… ten. There was now ten of the same boy standing right before them. The shock holding onto Edward grew to awe.
“What the hell,” he muttered, amazed.