Water

From the Story Arc: The Weight of the World

Next Story in the Arc: Fire - Part One by Bestial Boy (Thursday, May 12, 2005)

(posted Wednesday, March 09, 2005)

You know you’ve been in the shower too long when your skin starts to look like a raisin’s. When you’re skin is already light green to begin with, its just plain disturbing.

Zach stood underneath the showerhead, leaning against the ceramic tiles with his arms supporting his weight. The newest Commissar of the CCCP had turned the water pressure up to as high as it would go, and as the water pounded against his taut muscles, Zach’s head hung low like a boxer who just lost his title shot. His clothes lay on a crumpled ball in the locker room, the tape he used to protect his fists scattered along the floor.

The scalding water pounded against his taut muscles, but Zach didn’t make a sound. Of course, any time he wanted to, Bestial Boy could have used his mutant powers to coat his body with the inky “shadow stuff” that protected him from injury, but that would have defeated the point of this exercise. Zach wanted to feel the pain. Enduring pain was something he was good at, and feeling pain gave him a certain clarity of thought, a cleansing of the mind. But even the hottest water can’t scrub off psychological dirt, and the feeling of watching your adopted family be torn apart one by one was a tough stain to wash off.

Bestla. Gone forever.

Kostyak. Gone to who knows where.

Khrushchev. Turned into more a machine than a man.

“Way to go buddy boy,” Zach thought to himself, “you’re a freaking good luck charm for any house that lets you in. I should have known it couldn’t last. Mutant luck ain’t worth shit.”

At that moment, just like the faucet blasting him with water, a spigot of memories opened up inside Zachary Marlowe.

….

He had a “normal” family once, a mother, a father, even a little sister. Perhaps that wasn’t the right adjective, though, since you didn’t see any families with green-skinned, pointy eared, superstrong sons on the cover of “Family Circle”. But he loved his parents, and in their own fearful fashion they loved him. They feared for him, but they were afraid of him as well.

“Honey, I know you didn’t mean to do it.” Even though his mother was speaking to him warmly, a seven-year old Zachary knew he was in trouble. She held him on her lap, tightly clutching him to her.

“Timmy shouldn’t have blown out your candles, it was your birthday cake after all. But you shouldn’t have hurt him…”

“I know Mommy!” Zach said, “But I didn’t mean to hurt him anyway, just wanted him to leave my candles alone!”

From the way his mother looked at him, the pain in her eyes, Zach knew something bad was coming. He began to cry.

“Hush, hush Zachie…don’t cry. Everything is going to be fine. Your father and I spoke to some very nice men today that are going to help you.”

Zach’s pointed ears pricked up at that. What men?

“You know how you are stronger and faster than the other kids? Well, they told us that you are very special, and they are going to help you learn how to be as special as you can be!” Her voice quaked with passion, but she was trying to convince herself as much as Zach. “You’ll get to play lots of games with other kids, and no one will get angry at you for showing how special you are!”

Zach didn't quite understand what his mother was talking about. “So I’m changing schools? Is the new school far away from our house?”

A sadness flickered across Joanne Marlowe’s eyes. “That’s the thing sweetie, this school isn’t in New York. Its in Rhode Island, so you’re going to have a sleep-over party there. Remember when you stayed over at Jimmy’s house?”

Zachary didn’t see what Jimmy McDougle had to do with changing schools at all, but he knew it was not what he wanted. Grown-ups didn't sound like his mother did unless REALLY bad things were happening, like when Uncle Frank got hit by a car. He cried and cried, and when didn’t stop until he had cried himself to sleep.

Zach didn’t remember much of the next few weeks, only the day his parents dropped him off at “The Institute for Gifted Youngsters” They tenderly kissed him goodbye, prompted him to kiss his baby sister Anya, and driving away, leaving him in the hands of complete strangers. It was the most frightened Zach had ever been.



Back in the present, Zach’s fingers looked like lime-green prunes by now, so he finally shut off the water. “Guess, I can’t blame them,” he muttered to himself, “they could spot a bad luck charm….” Still soaking wet, Zach pulled on a T-shirt and a pair of shorts from his locker and sat down on the training room bench.

Slowly, softly, and for the first time in 18 years, Zachary Marlowe cried.