Chapter 1 Edit
The house was old and lonely, a ragged shell of what used to be a home. The only sound was the soft whistle of winter wind and the scurrying of rats. Large flakes of snow were piling up, covering the piles of trash and cracked sidewalks. The empty street was an ocean of darkness, spotted with small pools of light made by the few functioning lamps. The faint lights illuminated storefronts and boarding houses, all with boarded doors, shattered windows, tagged with graffiti that nobody would see. If you looked up one end of the street, you could see the chain-link fence that separates the slums from the rest of the city, and the faint neon lights of downtown. If you look down, towards the south, the street is slowly swallowed by the night; becoming utter blackness by the time you hit the river.
Nobody would be stupid enough, in this weather, to seek shelter in a rotting wooden house among the decayed slums of Pinebrook. Which is why I had picked the place. No normal person would look for us here. But of course, my family is anything but normal.
My whole family has...powers, for the lack of a better word. It's not a genetic trait, because we're all adopted. All picked up by Mother as babies, received from parents who never wanted us. I have no idea how we can do these things, but I never thought of it as abnormal. We're all one big extraordinary family, piled into an empty automotive factory just outside of town. We fight, we laugh, and we drive each other insane. Life was great.
I risked clicking on our small flashlight to check my watch. 1:45am. 1 day, six hours, and twelve minutes since I left home, dragging Hannah with me. I still have some trouble believing what Mother did. It just seemed so unlike her. How could the woman I lived with for my entire life keep such a secret from all of her children?
Mother was always there for us. She always nurtured us, cared for us, kept us fed, clothed, and happy. She paid for our education, tucked us in, and taught us how to control our abilities. I thought it was out of love. But I learned something horrible several hours ago. Which is why I'm currently hiding in an abandoned house with my sister Hannah. Because I saw Mother do something to Isaac, and she saw me watching. I barley got Hannah out of the warehouse alive.
Some brother I was, bringing her to the slums, letting her sleep in a condemned building. We had already eaten the meager amount of food I salvaged from the mini-mart across the street. She was sleeping fitfully under a threadbare blanket I had found in the basement, kicking up dust from the old mattress every time she rolled over. I was close by, fighting sleep by pacing back and forth, only stopping to look out the broken window. Our third-story hideout gave an excellent view down both sides of the road, and I checked frequently to make sure we weren't being pursued.
A raggedy dog emerged from the darkness, its patchy fur and emaciated belly lit up by a streetlight. It was one of the larger breeds, maybe a Lab, slowly struggling through the deepening snow. He was sniffing the air, probably trying to pick up the scent of something to eat. My heart went out to the little guy. He was in the same position I was. I was about to turn away from the window when it froze right in front of the mini mart, in the exact spot I had stood hours ago. It sniffed wildly, turning in circles, trying to lock onto the smell...and locked eyes with me. It started to growl as its shadow, cast onto the white snow by the streetlight, began to grow.
Time to leave.
I shook Hannah awake as the dog bolted for our front door, its growl deepening by the moment. She jumped from the bed and looked at me, eyes wide with fear.
"Andrew, what is it?"
"One of Steven's strays. It's at the door. We'll have to jump."
I slipped on the old backpack containing our supplies and ran to a stretch of wall, Hannah on my heels. I had picked the rotted area out earlier, just in case something like this happened. There was a loud crash as the dog burst through the front door below us. I waited until I heard the rapid scraping of claws on wooden stairs before I acted.
In all honesty, I have no idea how my ability works. I like to think I redirect power in my body, but all I know is that I become stronger and faster when I charge up. I can hurl the power outside my body, hitting things from a distance. I seem to think much faster too, like I'm giving my brain a boost. But all that I cared about right now was that I could get us out of here.
I blew open a hole in the aging wall with a quick blast of power, then grabbed Hannah and held her to my chest. I leapt out towards the street, coursing energy into my legs as I did to brace for impact. I released Hannah and we started running south a mere moment after striking the ground.
A large figure dropped out of the sky in front of us.
The dog had changed dramatically once Steven started feeding it power. The beast was huge now, easily reaching my shoulders. The paws had lengthened into wickedly curved talons, while the teeth had grown into overlarge fangs. The patchy coat had transformed into a thick pelt of bristling hair, and the loose skin draped over its bones was now taut with layers of muscle.
It hurled itself straight towards me, letting loose a horrifying howl as it did so. My arm flew between its teeth and my throat, and exploded with pain as the fangs broke the skin. I flung it over my shoulder, forcing power into my arms as I did, breaking the grip of its jaws and sending spinning into a snowdrift. I immediately began to charge my body, ignoring the bloody row of holes in my arm. The pain disappeared as a flood of warm strength flooded my limbs and hot sparks of electricity rocketed through my veins. Whenever I charge myself with my gift I get the same feeling of becoming complete, like a blacksmith is forging me out of hot metal. It's exhilarating. It makes me feel unstoppable.
I couldn't help smiling as Steven’s pet exploded from the snowdrift, rage dancing in its eyes. It was payback time. My left fist thudding into its ribs, which snapped with an audible crack, and the force sent it rolling through the snowy asphalt. I was already in front of the dog by the time it regained its footing. My knee thundered into its chin like an oncoming train, snapping the head back at a sickening angle. The beast toppled onto its side without another breath, shrinking back into its old self as it did so. The poor dog looked so pitiful without Steven’s power coursing through it, "enhancing" it. I turned back towards Hannah, saddened by the sight of the broken animal.
"I'm fine. But they know we're here now. Where should we go?"
"Well, if we follow the street south, we can lose them in the woods. Distance makes Steven’s strays weaker, and diminishes their senses. I doubt they could sniff us out if we cross the river. So let's just..."
I saw Hannah's mouth open to scream a mere moment before something drove into my back. I was thrown forward, and I caught a glimpse of my attacker as I turned over in the air. Two more beastly dogs had snuck up on us, and the one that struck me was running, head turned to the sky, tracking my progress. It sprung from the ground and caught me like a meaty tennis ball, then drove me into the earth with a quick twist of its body. It pinned me down with its front legs, planning to hold my back to the earth as it ripped through me. I managed to get an arm free and threw a wild punch at its face. I guess the force broke the skull or something, cause the dog died instantly.
The second dog had rushed Hannah, claws outstretched to rend her skin. She was obviously startled by their sudden appearance, but reacted only a bit slower than I did. I recognized the look in her eyes as she prepared her gift, and quickly realized that I was close enough to be in some serious pain. I hurriedly re-routed power to my ears, building a wall of defense around the vital areas as Hannah took a deep breath and sang a piercing high note.
Hannah is a fantastic singer without using her powers. When she augments her voice with them, she can make incredible things happen. I have seen her weave a net of soft, undulating tones that holds people in a dead trance and knock down a tree with a burst of sound. She is even working on a neat trick were she can send her sound through objects by altering the frequency. But one of the most astounding, and devastating, things she has ever been able to do is her sonic shriek.
She throws out a sound so incredibly loud and high-pitched that it attacks the hearing of anyone in range. The weirdest part is, due to the pitch, the shriek is completely silent to humans. That doesn’t make it any less painful when it hits you. I have been on the receiving end before, as have a few of our other siblings, and it’s a thoroughly unpleasant experience. Thankfully, we suffered no long-term problems at all. Mother says that it’s because our “special” nature makes us more durable than the usual person.
I can only imagine what Hannah’s shriek is like for a normal human being. I don’t even want to imagine what it was like for that dog.
The silent blast that erupted from her throat actually stopped the dog in its tracks. It jerked spasmodically as its sensitive ears were devastated by the sound waves, ripping through eardrums and puncturing the cochlea. Blood fountained from the beast’s ears, staining the snow around it a bright crimson. The sound struck me a second later, but all I felt was a dull thudding pressure on the barriers I had made. The dog fell to the ground, still twitching from the damage, whimpering to itself as Steven withdrew his power from it. I ran over and put it out of its misery.
Hannah was pointedly refusing to look at the three broken dogs around us. I grabbed the bodies and tossed them into a nearby dumpster. There was no sense in leaving the pitiful things around to frighten somebody. She was still silent when I returned. I hated to be the unfeeling guy, but every second we stood here gave Steven another chance to sic a dog on us. I started to walk south on the road, calling back to her over my shoulder.
“I’m sorry Hannah, but we have to run. Now.”
A trio of howl’s split the air behind us.
We didn’t bother to look back. We just started running as fast as we could to the river, letting the night swallow us from view. Not to far behind, three more dogs leapt the fence and followed, howling for blood.