Friday, July 17, 2009

"Never Special," Ghoulish, pt. 1, 475 words

Set shortly after "Costume Concerns" and before much else, when Ned was in his month-long coma. Not really autobiographical at all, despite the obvious immediate parallels.


The call comes in. It's early Sunday morning. Just after eight o'clock. Mom, her voice tight and scarcely controlled, gives me the news. I promise to be out there as soon as I can, and hurry to call my boss after hanging up with Mom. I can't make it into work, I explain, that I'll likely be gone the whole week, and can she do without me? She doesn't sound enthused about having to juggle the other girls' schedules, but she tells me that she'll take care of it. Go, she says, just go. My jujitsu instructor says the same thing when I tell her that I'll be missing class.

I throw everything I think I might need into an overnight bag and pull on my flight goggles. I leave through the window, barely remembering to close it again behind me. I live on the fourth floor, so I'm comfortable leaving it unlocked – little worry of burglars getting in that way. Not that I have much worth stealing.

My grandmother has just died.

I arrow almost perfectly northward, straining every muscle as if it would help me fly faster. I don't even have to work any particular muscle to fly, it just happens... but I try anyway. I know precisely where I'm going, and barely have to look down to take my bearings. The course to Gram's house is as indelibly written in my heart and mind as the way back to my mother's home. I could find my way there from the middle of China, if I had to.

The news isn't really much of a surprise. Gram's been in a bad way for a long while now, but really bad over the past few months. Cancer nearly took her twice, ten years ago. This, though, isn't anything as definite and fightable as cancer. Her body's just been failing her, slowly and steadily, bit by bit.

The last time I visited her was about half a year ago, just before the accident that gave me powers. She wasn't moving around much by then, but she was still the same woman I'd known for pretty much my whole life: white-haired and wrinkly, short and fat, her face full of laugh-lines, and all-around perfect for a warm embrace that reminds you what it's like to be four years old again. I felt guilty for not visiting her again since then, but at the same time she and Gramp had finally started needing a nursing aid to help around the home, and Gram couldn't even move to carry herself to the bathroom. Her appetite disappeared, and she started wasting away. Asked us grandkids not to come by because she hated how weak she looked and felt, didn't want us to remember her that way, full of frustration and embarrassment and tears at her body's cruel betrayal.

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