Yes, it's another one of those Maximum Ride-esque teen mutant stories. In my defence, I wrote this before I'd read that series (I also don't intend to betray my characters as Patterson did). There's also a fantasy element in the story.
I watch slowly as the crimson stain spreads across his shirt. Mine, too. Covered in the very substance that used to make me retch. This is our uniform now. The heavens have opened, letting lightning fork across the sky and the unceasing rain pound against us, washing away the blood. My hands are still dirty. I know they won’t come clean. Even if the past six years had never happened, even if I were still in the house that I can hardly remember, they still wouldn’t come clean.
I learned long ago not to bother with ifs and buts. For a second, I wonder what’s happened. Maybe it was him. It was probably her. And I swore I’d never let her, too...Huh.
Pain shoots through my arm, and I turn to see him gripping it tightly. Niadh, our supposed leader. Level-headed, calm, good at thinking things through - in other words, my polar opposite. We never really got on with each other. But I guess in certain situations, you have to forget your differences. Like when you’re on the run from the government and could spontaneously combust at any moment, for example.
“You OK?” I feel his grip tighten on my arm. “You’re bleeding quite a lot.”
I glance down at my newly stained shirt, then back up at him, grinning feebly. “Heh...Yeah, because you can really talk, given your current state.” His left shirt sleeve has been torn off, exposing the red raw flesh beneath. The fierce winds and bitter cold probably aren’t helping any.
“I’ll be fine.” He sounds as serious as ever. No sense of sarcasm, unlike me.
“Yeah, sure.” I smirk at the sight of his shirt. The rain and blood have swirled together to create a crazy pattern not unlike tie-dye. I suddenly notice all the swirls are coming from a dark red patch near his chest. “Holy ----!” A stream of unpleasant words erupts from my mouth. “Did you get shot back there?!”
He gives a little shrug and a smile, which just unnerves me more. Niadh never smiles at me. At Jen, sure. But not me. “I’ll be fine.” I can just about hear him over the roar of the wind. “I’ll get it checked out when we find shelter. For now, we have to press on. They’ll get the heat trackers out the moment the rain quits masking us. We have to be far enough away to be off-radar.”
I sigh, but I don’t think he can hear me. In any other situation, I’d yell at him for being so stubborn. But every splash of rain that hits me feels like I’m being stabbed. My fire element is growing stronger, to the point where even hot water stings. Admittedly, there’s no evidence to suggest I’m in danger, but nor is there any to prove I’m safe. I might not possess Niadh’s deductive skills, but even I can make a reasonable guess that the stronger my fire element becomes, the weaker my immune system becomes, and it’s likelier the gene will fully activate. When that happens, I’ll be a ticking time bomb. I don’t plan to take the others with me. In the howling wind and rain, I bet they don’t even hear my footsteps fade into the distance.
But I’m wrong. There’s one of them that hears me, one that follows me without me even noticing until I feel him grab hold of my arm. “Get back here. Where do you think you’re going?” Without even waiting for an answer, he tries to pull me back even as I attempt to wrestle my arm from him. “You can’t just abandon us as soon as you decide we’re not useful anymore, got it? I already let Rhys walk away. I won’t let you do that to us as well.”
“Fuck, can you just shut up for a second?” My hand tears across my forehead in a split-second, drawing a stream of blood behind it. We’re both too injured to fight, and we know it. I also know that Niadh will be standing behind me, giving me a death-glare from under that stupid fringe of his, so I don’t want to turn around. Unfortunately, the firm grip on my arm pulling me back tells me that I have to do so.
My best friend is standing there, as I knew he would be, one hand stuffed into the pocket of his tattered jeans and the other still tightened around my own arm. “What, you think I’m gonna let you just walk away from us?” His voice is low and forceful. I close my eyes and turn my head away, my body language making it all too clear that the subject is no longer open to debate. “Coward.”
In a flash, my eyes are wide open and mere centimetres from Niadh’s. “Fuck. Off.” Each word is enunciated slowly and forcefully. My muscles are so tensed up that I’ve started shaking, but I was never the calmest person to begin with. Seconds of thick silence drip by. Then, in a low whisper, “Don’t make me go back there.”
Niadh automatically loosens his grip and looks down at me, concerned. Despite my recent growth spurt, I’m still nearly a head shorter than him, something that only my ferocity prevents him from mocking me for. I expect he’s just in shock from hearing me plead like that. So am I. “That wound needs seeing to. Come back and let Satch take a look.” His words are carefully put. The wound needs seeing to because I never need anything. I need not to need anything. That’s just the way it is. The way it’s always been.
“I said fuck off,” I repeat, but my voice has lost all its aggressiveness. “I’m not going back.”
“I’m telling you that you have to, whether you like it or not. You want to just leave Satch hanging like that?”