“Don’t let the rain drive you to the wrong shelter; the shade can turn out to be your protector and also your destroyer, and sometimes the rain is the perfect protector from the rain.”
— Michael Bassey Johnson
The road was long and bare, stretching out to both horizons. It was narrow and mostly straight, meandering slightly at a clump of rocks, too huge and tough to completely blast away. A good place to hide.
There was a boy walking along that road. His shoulders were hunched from carrying his backpack, and he looked as though he had dressed hurriedly: a jeans pocket turned inside out, tousled hair, and shirt not buttoned correctly. His face was wan as he looked up at the dark, rumbling sky. He glanced behind him, back from where he had come on the endless road.
And as such things usually happen, it started to rain.
A light drizzle at first, then the wind picked up and the drops grew bigger and bigger. Thunder rolled, and far off in black line of the horizon before him, a flash of lightning. The boy swore and began to run, keeping his head down, his backpack bouncing.
The cluster of boulders was the only obvious sign of shelter, but the boy approached them warily. Someone — something — might also have the same idea.
One particular set of rocks was situated in the likeness of a cave, albeit a shallow and haphazard one. Still, it was better than nothing, and the boy ducked inside, though he didn’t venture far in.
There were a pair of shining eyes gazing at him from the back of the cave.
The boy jumped, nearly slipping and falling back into the rain.
“Hah!” he yelled, gathering his footing. He made an aggressive motion with his arms. “Hah!” he said again.
The eyes squinted at him. “Shut up.”
It was a girl’s voice. The boy relaxed visibly, though only slightly. “Who’s there?” he demanded, stepping a little closer. He couldn’t see a person at all, just more rock and then blackness. And eyes.
“Who are you?” said the girl.
“I asked first.”
“I found the cave first.”
The boy apparently had nothing to say to this. He looked back at the storm and edged farther inside.
“I just want to get out of the rain,” he said at last.
“So do I,” said the girl.
“Well, then I guess we’re roommates.” He smiled at the direction of the girl’s voice, but she did not reveal herself.
“What are you doing out here, anyway?” he asked, putting his backpack on the cave floor and shaking his head free of raindrops.
There was no answer from the girl, though her eyes never left him.
“I ran away. From home,” he added unnecessarily. “I’m . . . Well, I have . . .” He faltered and looked away from the girl’s eyes, hands fidgeting.
“I got magic.” The words came out in a single rush of breath. “You know, like other people. Some others. But my family . . . they don’t — didn’t — understand. They wanted . . . Well, I mean, maybe it would be for the best. But I didn’t want to, y’know?”
He glanced at the back of the cave. The girl was still staring at him.
“Are you m-magic too?”
“Are you also running away?”
The eyes narrowed again.
The boy shook his head. “It’s okay. You don’t trust me, I get it. Thanks for letting me share your cave, though.”
He sat down on the floor, using his pack as a makeshift pillow. He stretched out his legs and sighed.
“Comfy.” The boy could no longer see the girl’s eyes, but he heard her snort.
The cave was small and drafty, being nothing more than an outcropping of rock and weed, but it was mostly dry and the wind blew away from the entrance.
The boy listened to the storm for a while.
“What are your powers?” he asked out loud.
The girl didn’t respond right away. Then, her voice: “You first.”
The boy grinned at his success. “I can breathe underwater.” He shrugged, though he knew she couldn’t see him. “Not that exciting.”
“Useful, though,” the girl said.
“I guess. What about you?”
Again, there was a long pause before she said, “Laser vision.”
The boy frowned. “Like Superman?”
“I’m a girl,” she said dryly.
A little laugh. “Maybe.”
The boy sat up a little, looked pleased at her reaction. “Could you come out now? It’s weird talking to a rock.”
“No.” All amusement was gone from her voice.
The boy shook his head. “Suit yourself . . . ” He pulled his backpack to his front and began to rummage through it. “We could share snacks . . . ”
There was no response to this. The boy stood, as if to stretch.
Then he lunged over the rock, aiming for those eyes in the darkness, a needle in his hand.
He landed on top of her. After a gasp, the girl shoved him with surprising strength back over the rock, and he landed roughly on the cave floor, knocking his breath away. He blinked and gasped as he grabbed the fallen needle, and then the girl was there in front of him.
She was short and fat, with wet, stringy hair that was dyed four different colors, though fading to blonde roots. Tank-top, jeans — The boy didn’t have time to notice anything else before she grabbed the front of his shirt and lifted him up off his feet, holding him in the air, as high as her arm could reach.
Panicking, he jabbed the needle into her arm. It broke against her bare skin.
The girl grinned at him widely, her teeth white and vicious. “Guess you guys weren’t prepared.”
He reached for her throat, but she rammed his body into the side of the cave, pinning one arm, and she snatched the other with her own hand. She stared deep into his eyes, and the boy barely had time to wonder if she really did have laser vision, when she twisted her wrist and broke his.
He screamed. She twisted further and broke his arm.
His scream turned piercing, and the girl dropped him. He landed in a sobbing heap on the floor.
Looking disgusted, the girl grabbed the boy by the back of his shirt and hauled him easily to the edge of the cave. Then she threw him — up and over the outcropping of rock (scarcely missing bashing his head) and then she watched him tumble and slide to a stop in the sopping grass, a mere speck in the distance. She couldn’t tell if he was moving.
The girl turned away and stared at the boy’s backpack for a moment. Then she began to go through it. There was a large blanket, stuffed to make the pack look heavy, as if it contained whatever a runaway might need. There were also more needles and some sort of serum (which she smashed), a taser (which she kept), a handheld radio, and a gun. She left this, though she emptied it of bullets, pinching them into useless discs with her fingers. She went to her little alcove in the back of the cave and retrieved her own backpack, equally bulky, though it had far more useful items inside. She tucked the taser in a side pocket.
The girl kicked aside the boy’s backpack as she went to the front of the cave. The girl hadn’t bothered doing anything with the radio. Interrupting the signal in any way would just bring them here sooner. They were likely waiting for the boy’s clearance. Better to move on. The rain would be a useful cover, anyway.
So she began to run. Away from the rocks and back on that long, long road. Toward sanctuary.
This is loosely connected to my Change series, a sort of prequel for one of the characters.
This prompt that inspired this writing can be found in this book: 400 Story Seeds to Crush Writer’s Block.