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Authors: Temple Mathews

The New Kid

BOOK: The New Kid
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Table of Contents
 
 
 
For William Thomas Mathews
Chapter One: The New Kid
W
ill was on his back, falling through darkness, and the only thing he could think about was whether he had any reason whatsoever to go on living. He decided he did. There was someone he had to kill.
He was falling faster and faster, the updraft whipping at his clothes. He knew he’d have to get his body turned around to have any chance of surviving. He twisted his torso and wrenched himself sideways. The air was hot and getting hotter by the second. Soon it would be scalding. Dirt and debris shot up from below, pelting him in the face, as he plummeted through the dark tunnel, dropping fast as a sack of scrap iron. Tunnel entrances flashed by in a blur. He tried grabbing at the roots and outcroppings of rocks that zoomed by but he was going too fast.
This can’t be it
, he thought,
this can’t be the end, it just can’t!
Sure, he’d made stupid mistakes; he’d miscalculated the power and cunning of his enemy. But there was still hope, wasn’t there? He had to grab a root. It was either that or die for sure on impact. Impact on
what
he didn’t know, but no way could it be anything but beyond horrible.
Will heard his father’s voice echoing through the shaft.
“Let go, Will, you have to let go.”
But Will couldn’t, and his fingernails raked at the sides of the tunnel in desperation—and there, a root! For a moment he caught purchase, his hands grasping, palms burning, as the root slipped through his fingers until he wrist-wrapped it and was jolted to a halt, slamming against the side of the dank earth. He sucked wind and blinked away more swirling dirt. Maybe he was going to make it. Maybe he was going to live to see another day. But then he heard a hideous roar as something erupted from below. He was blasted with a wave of thick blistering air, engulfed in a torrent of fetid rain from below. He pulled on the root, his only chance at survival, and, feet scrabbling, tried to climb. Again he heard his father’s voice.
“Let go, Will. You must let go.”
But Will refused to let go and held on even tighter. And then the root snapped. Gravity yanked him backward and his head slammed into a rock. He was falling again and he saw the flames and molten lava below as he plummeted down and down. His ears nearly burst from the sound of an explosion and he felt the ground quaking, the earth splitting in two. The end was surely upon him. He thought he saw a face, the eyes swollen and pulsing with hatred, the mouth gaping open. Will screamed, his throat raw from the heat. This was it. In seconds he was going to die. The earth shook again, this time more violently.
 
“Wake up, Will. It’s 7:09! Get your skinny butt out of that bed! You don’t want to be late the first day at your new school, slacker!”
His heart still pounding from the nightmare, Will Hunter sat up, blinked twice, and the room came into focus. His nimrod stepfather Gerald was standing over him, one foot on the bed, shaking it with his foot. Hence the earthquake. His stepfather cracked one of his patented cannon farts, then did an about face and retreated into the hallway. Will looked around the room and saw the packing boxes that contained his life. Rising, he glanced out the window. The moving
van that had disgorged all their stuff was gone. He looked down at the tracks the big Kenworth had left on the lawn when the movers backed it up to off-load his crates into the basement. He’d tipped the movers a couple of thousand each to ensure that they’d keep their mouths shut about the crates. To Will it was just part of doing business, because it was important that no one knew what his business was. If someone did find out it could prove fatal. The workmen’s trucks were all gone, too, and Will was confident that they’d done as he’d ordered and the house’s infrastructure had been modified to his exact specifications.
He looked around the neighborhood at the fall trees, the flowers in bloom. It was another town, another new school. Will was only sixteen but he’d already bounced around to so many schools he’d lost count. With a sigh he climbed into a pair of jeans, pulled a faded Caterpillar T-shirt over his head, then zipped into the bathroom to splash water on his face, run a comb through his hair, brush his teeth, and take a leak. Looking in the mirror he tried on a smile—best to at least try and appear friendly on your first day—but the smile looked phony so he settled on his usual stoic stare, grabbed his DC backpack, and bounded down the stairs two at a time.
In the kitchen he stopped when he saw his mother April at the stove. April—his favorite month. He saw her purse lying on the kitchen counter and quietly moved over and opened it. She only had five bucks in her wallet. Will took two crisp hundreds from his own wallet and slipped them into hers. He loved his mother more than anything on earth, and not a day went by when he didn’t wonder what she’d done in a previous life to deserve winding up with a dorky loser like Gerald. The guy was a total jerk whose cheese had definitely slipped off his cracker. He could barely hold a job and his fashion choices would have been intolerable had they not provided Will with the occasional belly laugh. Gerald would wear green jeans with red socks and a blue T-shirt. Or a turd-brown old-man jumpsuit with screaming yellow socks and clogs. April made excuses, saying
Gerald was color blind, but Will was pretty certain the guy was just a garden variety idiot. After all, his biggest claim to fame was that he made his own beer. He was consistently flatulent and emitted massive blasts of gas that could knock out a junkyard dog. All in all, a great guy to have around.
Even though April worked full-time in market research she always took the time to make Will breakfast. This morning it was waffles with bacon and now he was careful to scuffle his feet so she wouldn’t be startled. She spooked easily. To tell the truth, they all did.
“Morning, Mom.”
She turned quickly, holding a plate, her eyes finding him with a quick smile that just about melted his heart.
“Will, I didn’t even hear you come in. I made you—”
“A waffle bacon sandwich, I know, my fave. Thanks.” He smiled back. “Gotta run.”
Will grabbed the concoction, took a bite, and was halfway out the door when her voice stopped him.
“Good luck at school.”
“Sure thing,” he said.
Then she frowned and touched his arm. “Will, I’m so sorry we’ve had to move around so much. My job . . . sometimes you have to do what you have to do.”
“It’s okay, Mom, really. I totally understand. See you later.”
Will gave his mom a quick peck and then exited. April had no idea that the real reason they moved around so much was because of Will, not her. He wished he could just talk to her. But then again he wished he could do a lot of things he knew were impossible. They’d been through one shitstorm after another and he wanted to keep things as stable as he could, for her sake and for the sake of the mission. Nothing was going to stop him.
The garage door opened and Gerald’s Saab came lurching out in front of Will, almost running right over his Converses. Sometimes he
wondered if Gerald did stuff like that just to annoy him, or if he was actually trying to kill him. Will quickly turned and hoofed it down the driveway toward the corner where some kids lingered, trying their best to look as cool as anybody can possibly look while waiting for a school bus. Will had a car of his own, a “rice rocket” Mitsubishi EVO. With its MIVEC turbo engine and six-speed, paddle-shifted dual clutch sequential transmission his baby generally blew just about everything in its path off the road. But on his first day in a new school Will always chose to ride the bus because he wanted to be as inconspicuous as possible. For any other kid this would have been easy. But Will was different and he always stood out like a sore thumb no matter how he looked or carried himself. He kept trying though. Mainly because he wanted so badly to fit in that his heart ached for it.
Gerald’s Saab floated alongside Will as he walked down the sidewalk. A window powered down and Gerald’s grating voice came clawing out.
“Will, I don’t need to tell you how important it is for you to . . . toe the line this time.”
If you don’t need to tell me, then how about shutting your yap and putting the pedal to the metal, butt-wipe
, thought Will.
“I get it, Gerald. I get it for sure.”
“You know, when one door closes, another opens,” Gerald added.
Will stared at the cracked sidewalk and clenched his jaw. He knew all about doors opening and closing. He’d had scores slammed in his face and he’d kicked down plenty more. He didn’t like where most doors led because in his case, they almost always opened to someplace where a body could discover a whole new world of pain. He balled his fists and felt the red anger building up in him. But he breathed deeply and instead of exploding, conjured up a semi-cordial look and tossed it in Gerald’s direction.
“Thanks, G. You rock. Got it, totally. Have a great day.”
Gerald more or less scowled, looking like he’d swallowed a toad or something, or like he had yet another batch of dynamite gas building up. You could tell he was just itching to pull the Swedish tank car over, jump out, and knock Will around a little just to teach him some respect. But he knew he couldn’t do that because no way would April ever stand for it. So he just sucked his saliva through his teeth, over and over—one of the many disgusting habits that drove Will nuts—until another gem of wisdom emerged.
“If you can’t make it work this time, you only have yourself to blame.”
Gerald apparently didn’t need a response to this because he sped off, leaving Will to choke on Saab fumes. His stepdad was pretty much always like this, giving him grief for all the stuff that had happened to them as they’d moved from town to town to town. He knew Gerald despised him but what could either of them do? He was married to Will’s mother so they had to keep the peace. But one of these days. . . .
Will walked down the street toward the corner, glancing around at the cozy pastel-colored houses, the white picket fences, the meticulously manicured lawns. It all looked so clean and neat and . . . welcoming. He gazed up at the local mountain, Mount St. Emory, a dormant volcano that stood guard majestically in the distance. It was pretty cool. Will decided he liked the look of Harrisburg and in the back of his mind, in a calm place, he wondered if the town was even infected. Of course he was reasonably certain it was—his calculations were seldom off—but he almost hoped that this time he was wrong, that this time he could spend a few months, or even just a few weeks, being a normal teenager, hanging out with the guys, skateboarding around, having fun just kicking back and watching something stupid on TV, wolfing down chips and bean dip and chugging Mountain Dew. A voice inside him said
not gonna happen, buddy boy, and you know it
.
BOOK: The New Kid
10.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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