The rain pelts down, battering against the cold concrete ground and soaking everyone outside. People rush about, trying to duck under trees or into shops to keep dry. And I’m in the midst of all this, hood of my leather jacket up to keep my curly hair dry. I’m wearing sunglasses despite the dark clouds looming overhead.
I wrap my arms around myself, shivering in the cold. I tap my foot impatiently, waiting to cross the road. Beside me, I can see a short blonde woman glance over curiously, no doubt wondering why I’m wearing sunglasses in such shitty weather, their impossibly black surface completely hiding my eyes. I turn away; the last thing I want is to attract attention.
Cars stop and people surge forwards. The crowd push me forwards and I lose sight of the woman. I sigh in relief - curious strangers always make me uneasy.
“Hey, what are you doing?” Someone shouts behind me and I freeze. The crowd push past me, impatient. I glance back, heart beating wildly, but whoever it was isn’t speaking to me.
The young blonde woman is walking back the way she came, but stops in the middle of the road. She kneels down to pick up something small. A wallet? Keys? I can’t see. But I can see the sleek car speeding towards her. It’s not going to stop.
I run forwards, legs burning with the effort, feeling as if I’m going to be sick. I grab her under the arms and throw her out of the way, where someone else catches her and helps her onto the pavement.
But the car is still coming. Before I know what I’m doing, I drop to my knees and throw out an arm. It connects with the vehicle’s front bumper. There’s an ear piercing, metallic screeching. I squeeze my eyes shut.
When I open them, people are screaming.
I glance around, dazed and confused. Why are people screaming? I managed to stop the car.
Except, I haven’t. Instead of being in front of me, the car sits by a thick tree several metres away, crumpled and smoking. The front - where my fist had made contact - is dented, the tinted windscreen smashed. Two people lie nearby, unmoving.
What the hell have I done?
I stagger to my feet, and bile rises to the back of my throat. My sunglasses have fallen off, and I quickly tug my hood further over my face. But it’s too late - everyone knows what I am. No normal human could cause so much damage.
I sprint towards the crash, collapsing beside one of the injured. Her legs are twisted at odd angles, and she has a huge slice down her cheek. I feel for a pulse, blood staining my hands, and I wipe them on my jeans. She’s alive, but only just.
The woman I saved is kneeling beside the second person, eyes wide and streaked with tears.
“I’m calling an ambulance,” someone speaks. “And the police.”
My heart drops into my stomach. The police can’t see me. What they’ll do to me - to any Other who’s arrested - is beyond comprehension. I’ve heard horror stories of how Others are treated. No fair trials, twenty-four-seven solitary confinement; we’re treated like animals. Something almost exactly like this happened to an Other a month ago. Nuwa Zhao was forced to go into hiding.
“It wasn’t his fault,” someone else argues. “He was trying to help! That car shouldn’t have been driving so fast.”
I relax slightly, but my blood still pounds through my veins. One person standing up for me won’t be enough.
“You have to leave.”
The whisper by my ear shocks him out of my daze, and I jump. It’s the woman I saved. If ‘saved’ is the right word for it. I’ve hurt far more people by trying to help.
“You have to leave,” she repeats. “Who knows what the hell will happen to you if the police find you.” She presses something into my hand. “I live on Newport Street. Get to my house and stay there until I arrive.”
Before I can question her, she’s gone. I glance down to my hands. In them are a set of keys.
I can hear sirens in the distance. Shaking, I stumble in the opposite direction. Around me people protest. Hands grab for me, trying to stop me. But I push forwards, swatting at the hands and flinching from the shouts.
I don’t know where I’m going. Newport Street. I know where it is, but my mind isn’t working. I can’t think, can’t work past the haze of panic and fear.
I pick up speed, leaving the disaster scene behind. People turn to stare at me as I sprint down the street, breathing heavily. Within minutes I find myself on Newport Street, staring at the neat little buildings. Everything is so quiet, as if it’s a whole different world to the chaos before.
The woman’s house number is on her key. I wander down the street, not really thinking about what I’m doing, until I found her house. The front door is open. The strangeness of it never enters my mind as I go inside. I wander aimlessly down the short hallway, glancing into each room as I pass it.
Suddenly, I come to an abrupt stop, eyes widening. There’s someone in the kitchen. Dark hair, slender, androgynous build, short.
I stare at them for a painfully long moment, before the stranger screams.
“What the hell are you doing in my house?” They snatch up a knife from the countertop, pointing it at me with a shaky hand.
“I-I’m not going to hurt you,” my voice wavers. “Someone told me to come here. I don’t know their name.”
Their eyes narrow. “Why are you covered in blood?” they question, voice quiet.
“I was in an accident.”
The knife lowers, but only slightly. “You’re eyes, they’re gold. You’re an Other.” It’s more of a question than a statement. I don’t notice until now that they have a slight French accent.
I should leave. I can’t stay here - I’m putting people in danger. The police will find me and these people will be dragged into it as well. That is, if they don’t tip the police off. This person knows what I am - few people trust the Others.
“What happened to you? You can’t have been in an accident; you don’t look hurt.” Their voice is shaky and high pitched. They lean against the counter, pale and stiff.
I swallow. “I… I caused it.” I take a step back as they raise the knife again. “I didn’t hurt anyone on purpose! I was trying to help.”
They lower their head, and I hear them sigh quietly. “Oh my God! What has Fiona gotten us into?” When they look up, their cheeks are damp. “D-did anyone see you come in here?”
I shake my head. I don’t think anyone has seen me, but I had been too panicked to pay any attention. Even now, although the adrenaline is waring off, my heart is pounding and my head feels like it’s about to split open. I still can’t believe what’s happening.
They keep a tight grip on the knife as they walk over to me, slow and cautious. “Okay. Okay.” They’re talking more to themselves than me. “Sit tight until Fiona gets here.”
Right as they speak, there’s a loud, brisk rap at the door. Their eyes narrow, and they point the knife shakily at me. “Stay here. That’s not Fiona.”
Oh God. It must be the police. Will they hand me over? Or lie and claim they don’t know who I am? I hold my breath and duck further into the kitchen, avoiding the small window overlooking the driveway.
I can’t hear well, but I can make out two voices.
“Are you Adrienne Paquet? I’m sorry, but Fiona’s been in a car accident. She isn’t hurt, but the paramedics wanted to take a look at her.”
I can’t hear any more, so I inch closer to the kitchen door. Even then, I can only make out little snippets.
“… be careful, he could be dangerous… an Other with newly manifested abilities… Fiona will be home soon…”
“… I haven’t seen him… sorry, sir.”
I hold my breath, hoping the policeman will believe them and leave. A few moments later, I hear the door click closed. The person - Adrienne - appears in the kitchen doorway, pale and trembling.
“Jesus! I can’t believe this is happening.” They’re on the brink of tears. I don’t blame them. “What am I going to do?”
“I’m sorry.” My throat feels like sandpaper. “I don’t want you to get involved.” I don’t want to get anyone involved. I’ve hurt enough people as it is. Are they even okay? I didn’t stay long enough to find out.
Adrienne looks over at me with wide brown eyes, but says nothing.
A moment later the front door bangs open. I jump, instinctively shying away from the hallway. Who the fuck is that?
“Adrienne? Are you in?”
I recognise the voice as Fiona’s. Relief floods through me. Now we can figure out what to do.
Adrienne runs to Fiona the moment she’s visible. Fiona wraps them in a tight hug and kisses their forehead.
“What’s this guy doing here?” Adrienne asks in a hissed whisper, but I can still hear. Adrienne takes a shaky breath, gripping Fiona tightly.
Fiona doesn’t speak. They hold each other for a long moment. I shift uncomfortably from foot to foot. I shouldn’t be watching in on this - it’s a private scene I have no right to be a part of. But where am I supposed to go?
I clear my throat, hoping to get their attention. “So what do I do now?” I can’t stay.
Adrienne and Fiona glance at each other. “We should call Cameron,” Fiona states. “He’s done this sort of thing before.” Adrienne nods in response.
I don’t know who this Cameron is, but anyone who can help is good in my books. I nod, feeling a little less overwhelmed. “Okay. Call him.”
There’s the distant sound of sirens. I flinch away from the window, but they drift farther away, not closer. If I have any hope of getting out of this, I have to stop being so jumpy.
“I’ll call Cameron.” Adrienne untangles themselves from Fiona’s hug and leaves the room, almost sprinting. They must be eager to leave me - no wonder, after everything that’s going on. They must know how serious a situation this is.
Fiona looks at me, unblinking. I glance away, unable to hold her gaze. At first I think she’s not going to say anything, but then she speaks. Her voice is soft. “What happened back there? I know Others are strong… but you were even stronger than anyone else I’ve seen.”
I shrug. “My abilities are newly manifested. I’ve never used them before.” Most people develop their abilities in their late teens. I’m twenty-nine. A late bloomer. I suppose I should have known they would appear sooner or later. I just never expected them to appear like that.
“Damn!” Fiona breathes. “The police will really want to catch you! A newbie; that makes you even more dangerous.”
Tell me about it. If only the authorities put more effort into helping us control our abilities and less time trying to incriminate us, life would be much easier.
Adrienne arrives back, looking flustered. “Cameron will be here soon. He’s in town - lucky for us,” they tell us, glancing nervously at me. “He’ll know what to do.” They sound certain. Whoever Cameron is, I hope he’s as good as they say.
“Why are you helping me?”I ask. I appreciate it - of course I do - but why would complete strangers care so much? I can’t fathom it.
“Because you saved me,” Fiona replies. “You didn’t mean to cause the crash - you were trying to help me.”
“And I know what people are like to Others. You’d be thrown in jail without a trial,” Adrienne adds quietly. They aren’t looking at me, but the knife is back on the kitchen counter and they’re smiling shyly.
“Well, thanks. I mean it.” I’ve never had someone risk so much for me before. I’ve never really had anyone care about me before, other than my little sister.
Fiona gestures for me to come with her. “You should change; it’ll make you harder to spot.”
She has a point. They’ll be looking for someone in a grey hoodie and blue converse; if I’m wearing something else, hopefully I won’t be recognised. Hopefully.
“Some of my stuff might fit.” Adrienne looks at me. “You’re tall and slim. So am I.”
Fiona leads me across the hall to a small bedroom with a double bed in the middle. She rummages around in the wardrobe while I stand awkwardly by the door, unsure of what to do. A moment later she arrives back, holding a bundle of clothes.
“Take these,” she thrusts them into my arms. “Shower’s through that door there.” She gestures to a door beside the bed. “Get all that blood off you. I’ll take care of the bloody clothes.” And just like that, she glides back into the hall. How she can be so calm is beyond me.
I stare at the fabric in my arms, blinking slowly. Am I a fugitive now? Yeah, I am. I used to watch a lot of crime shows as a kid. I always looked at the criminals on those shows and thought ‘how could people do stuff like that?’ well, now I’m doing the same thing they did.
I trudge into the tiny bathroom, dumping the clothes unceremoniously onto the sink counter. The shower is small and the room is dark, but I’m just glad I can wash and get rid of all this blood. It’s dried and cracked, and smells disgusting.
It also makes me think of those poor people I hurt.
I try not to think about it as I strip and step inside the shower, leaving my dirty clothes in a corner so I don’t have to look at them. I didn’t know there was blood in my hair, but when I run a hand through the thick, dark curls I can feel the crusty, half dried liquid. I cringe.
Finally, the last of the blood is gone. It’s a small thing, but it makes me feel a little better. Everything seems just a tiny bit more manageable. It’s not fixed by a long shot, but I feel like I can begin to get things worked out now.
Once I’m dried off and in the new clothes, I sit down on the bed with my head in my hands. I can hear a new voice across the hall - Cameron, maybe - but I can’t bring myself to go back yet. If I could stay here forever and just forget about everything, I would.
But I can’t. So I force myself to get up and leave the safety of seclusion. The living room door is open, and I can see the back of Adrienne’s head. When I arrive, three heads turn to look at me. Adrienne, Fiona and a tanned, golden eyed man. I shuffle over and sit down beside Fiona, trying to look relaxed. I don’t think I’m managing.
“This,” Fiona tells me, “is Cameron. And hopefully, he’s going to help you.” She turns to Cameron. “This is… wait, I don’t know your name.”
I’m not phased. Names are hardly important right now. But for the sake of politeness, I answer. “Garrett.” I don’t tell them my surname - Calloway - just in case.
“Right. I’m Fiona, and this is Adrienne.”
I already know their names, but I don’t bother to tell them.
“So,” Cameron speaks. His voice is rough, like a smoker. “Your powers are newly manifested, and you caused an accident. You’re now a fugitive, so the authorities will want you even more.”
I nod, swallowing thickly. He’s not helping.
“Okay. I can get you out of here. I have a place where Others can go. Those of us who wouldn’t have a home otherwise. Orphans, homeless, those accused of crimes like you. No one will know you’re there, and you’ll be with others in a similar situation.”
“What about us? We’re a part of this now, too.” Adrienne looks pale and frightened.
Cameron bites his top lip. “As long as we’re all careful, no one will even know we were involved. You can stay with us for a while if you want, just in case. Pretend you’re visiting family or something.”
If only it’s that simple. But I know it won’t go as smoothly at this. I wish it’s possible, but it’s just not. I’m not pessimistic, I’m realistic.
“We should go now, before someone catches on.”
I frown. “Can I go home? Say goodbye to my parents and sister?” Even as I say it I know it’s stupid. Why the hell would I risk throwing my family into this stupid mess?
Cameron shakes his head vehemently. “Not worth the risk. I’m sorry, but you can’t see anyone.” He leans forward and puts a thick hand on my shoulder. “I know it sounds harsh, but it’s for the best.”
I know he’s telling the truth. Yet I can’t help but feel cheated. Cheated out of one last chance to speak to my family and friends. I try to think of the last words I said to my sister Anna. I can’t remember. I hope they were good ones.
“We should pack some stuff. I’ll see what I can find suitable for you, Garrett.” Fiona stands up, gesturing to Adrienne. The two leave together.
Cameron and I sit in silence. My hands fidget constantly and I glance around the room. It’s not awkward, just tense. But if everything goes the way it should - which I hope it will - then I’ll be somewhere safe soon.
“Where is this safehouse?” I question, looking over at Cameron.
“Cambridge,” he answers with a small smile. “It’s a big house, acres of land. Perfect for what I use it for.”
Cambridge is four hours away. Quite a big distance by normal standards, but I don’t think I’ll feel safe unless I’m overseas. Even then, I don’t know how I could ever feel safe again.
Maybe I’m overreacting. It isn’t my fault. I didn’t know what was going to happen. Maybe, just maybe everything would turn out okay if I just stayed and spoke to the police.
Yeah, right. Wishful thinking.
Adrienne and Fiona appear in the doorway, each holding two huge backpacks stuffed so full they’re not even zipped up. They both look uneasy, but determined.
“I’ll bring the car around the back. That way we can leave without being seen.” Cameron stands up and strides outside, confident and calm. I can hear the car starting up.
“Come on, let’s go.” Fiona guides Adrienne towards the back of the small bungalow, motioning for me to follow.
I’m worried about Adrienne. They look pale and sickly, and their cheeks are stained with dry tears. How could I do that to Adrienne and Fiona? They seem like lovely people, and I’ve maybe literally ruined their lives.
If Cameron’s right, and no one knows they’ve helped me, it will be a bloody miracle.
When we get outside, Cameron is waiting. The little black car is old and inconspicuous; perfect for us. We can drive off and no one will think anything of it. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.
Adrienne and Fiona struggle with their bags. I help Fiona open the boot of the car and toss them inside.
I hear shouting. I turn around just in time to see someone run inside their home. Someone else is looking out a window, saying something I can’t hear. My heart drops into my stomach as I realise what’s going on - people have seen us. They’re no doubt phoning the police right now.
“Fuck!” Fiona hisses, throwing herself into the back seat. Adrienne is already inside.
I yank open the front passenger door and climb inside. “We have to go. Now!”
Cameron doesn’t need telling twice. He’s pulling away from the house even as I speak, barely giving me time to close the door. I glance behind me, out through the rear windshield. There’s a small crowd forming, staring after our car with confusion and fear.