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Young Talent (pt 1)- September Short Stories
Emily Aldritch ran through the woods as fast as she could, trainers pounding on the soft terrain of the forest. She was gasping for breath and holding her hand to her stomach massaging as stitch that was causing discomfort. Tears and sweat covered her face.
The thirteen year old stopped at an elm tree to catch her breath. She looked behind her and was thankful nobody had managed to follow this far into the wood.
She was different, and always would be, this was a fact that she had known since before she could speak. Other kids didn’t like people who were different, or at least they tend to ridicule that which they don’t understand. This was another fact of life she felt she had learned at an early age.
She recalled one of the first birthday parties she had been invited to. The birthday kid, Natalie Holmes, had been forced to invite her on her parent’s insistence. This was apparent the moment Emily was left alone with the kids in the back yard. Birthday cake consumed, presents had been exchanged and the parents were enjoying what they hoped was a brief reprise from entertaining the children.
“Hey Emily, what’s with your hair? You look like a weiirrdo.” Natalie and the other kids laughed at the jab at Emily’s expense.
Emily’s parents were old fashioned, and while they encouraged her to be herself, they often tried to push retro fads onto her. And as far as Emily was concerned she thought retro was rad –a term she had heard her brother say when referring to something he thought was cool.
She remembered mumbling something about how she had seen the style in one of her moms old fashion magazines. It had been a beehive hairdo, something that was apparently never coming back in style.
Not long after the birthday party, Emily entered into first grade, along with the kids from the party. They wasted no time spreading the word that she was a weirdo. Being one of the few kids that had handmade clothes, it wasn’t hard most of her school mates to jump on the band wagon. Other kids tended to avoid her in fear of also becoming targets through association.
She grew used to being teased and avoided.
It took some time, but she eventually found a nice spot in the recess yard where most of the kids would avoid her. She became a pro at distracting herself. Often, she would bring colouring books & sometimes a comic book that her brother would lend her to read. She didn’t understand most of the words in the little speech bubbles, but she really liked the images with all of their bright colours and action.
Eventually she did learn to read, and soon progressed to teen fiction. Her colouring skills also saw an upgrade, and she was sometimes actually proud of her handy work.
At least, she used to be, but eventually the kids on the school yard would find her drawings and think it funny to steal them or put them in the trash.
By the time Emily reached double digits, she was a fairly accomplished independent student. She was good friends with the school’s art teacher and librarians. The adults knew that something was special, and strange, about her but they were a little more inclined to encourage her passions.
In time she began to enjoy the time she spent in her little recess space.
The other kids also seemed to stop teasing her as much. A whole new crop of nicknames had crept up, though. A school yard favourite being Emily All-Bitch, but she had long since learned how to ignore mean voices.
Today, she may have gone a little too far with her special talent. The other kids weren’t going to forget this. They had chased her mostly out of outrage and fear.
Walking deeper into the forest she came upon a pond in a small meadow. She had been here many times before, it was among her favourite after school hiking spots. It was far enough in the woods that she doubted many other kids would stumble upon her.
Sitting on the edge of the pool of water she thought about what had transpired on the school yard.
Tracie Evans and Haley Mirewood, two inseparable trouble-makers in the same grade as Emily, had been bored and decided to play a game of let’s-get-Emily-worked-up.
They found her in her usual spot, she had been absorbed in a Gordon Korman book and didn’t notice them approaching. Tracie grabbed her sketch book and began looking through it.
This was typically how it started, kids would approach her and pretend to have interest in her, and then find a way to tease or ridicule.
“Woah, look at these! Hey, Haley, check out what the weirdo can do.” Tracie held out the book to her partner in crime.
“Get lost Tracie.” Emily said haughtily, tossing her book to the ground.
Haley stood between her and her sketch book. Emily would have to shove or hit her to get her book back. An act that would just end with all of them in trouble and in the end it would give them more ammunition to despise her.
“Hold on, I just wanted to see what you were up to. You’re always by yourself, you know, you probably think you’re better than us.” Tracie flipped through the pages. “Oh my god, can you believe this! She totally has a crush on someone!”
“Give it back!” Emily rarely lost her temper, but her drawings were private, plus situations like this were usually how her sketch book ended up in the trash.
She shouldn’t have lost her temper, she knew what could happen if she didn’t keep it in check.
One time her mother had grounded her for talking back, and Emily in her anger had yelled through her door until her voice became hoarse. When she calmed down enough, she turned to her sketch book to distract herself.
She focused on a snake taking in rays of sun on a garden path. By the time she had begun shading in the green scales, her initial anger had subsided.
She remembered really picturing it, she could almost see it quiver and stick out its tongue testing the air. Blades of grass poked up beneath the reptile’s underbelly. She could even imagine the warmth from the sun that the small creature was capturing.
While engrossed in her sketch, she was startled by a scream from her mom who had been cooking supper in the Aldritch’s kitchen.
“Carl, Jake! Get this out of here!” Her voice was full of fright. “Quick! It’s under the fridge!”
A snake had made its way into her family’s kitchen. Her father and brother managed to trap it and release it in their back yard. No one knew how it had gotten into the house, and after that point a snake in the house became an inside joke among their family.
After that incident, Emily couldn’t help but think that there was a connection between her imagination and the kitchen snake.
She knew she had summoned it, somehow, but she had to test the theory.
At first, going to her pond in the forest, she tried drawing things she wanted to exist. A dog, a horse, a new bike; all yielded no positive results. Eventually she realized she had to focus hard, and that it depended on her mood, when she was happy, for instance, she was able to make flowers appear in the meadow.
Emily had decided early to never show her family, or her schoolmates, that she had a hidden talent. Even as a small child, she knew that what she had was not understood in the world around her.
If only Tracie hadn’t been such a terrible person towards her.
She had never intended to hurt her. She just wanted her to feel bad for what she had done.
A column of water had risen out of the pond. Emily ran her hand along the edges. Manipulating water had been something she had learned recently. She was never certain where her power came from, but from time to time she did enjoy some of the beautiful things she could do with it.
Hurting Tracie was bad, and it was hard to explain what had happened without fingers being pointed at her. Haley would never be able to talk about what she had seen, and Tracie, was trapped so there was no loose end there.
What had shocked her out of her state was when she saw the flecks of blood drip onto her sketchbook. Once seeing the scarlet liquid, she was brought back to her senses. Left to look down at the damage she had inflicted.
Haley had a broken nose, and was lying on the ground, clutching Emily’s book. On top of that, she had a bump on her forehead from her hitting her head on the ground.
It had been the first time she controlled someone, she had always thought it was something within her grasp. She replayed the image of Haley banging her own head against the ground.
A slightly satisfied feeling came to her, slowly replacing the guilt she felt.
Looking down at her sketch book, she flipped to a page that had recently been filled in. It revealed a castle court yard, an execution was being held. Villagers could be seen standing around a gallows, some appeared to be cheering and a few were throwing rocks at the small child that was set to be hung.
Emily smiled as she saw the terrified face of Tracie looking out at her.
To be continued...