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Authors: Sherwood Smith

Zapped

BOOK: Zapped
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I remember a mobile hanging over my crib. It was a cardboard carousel of flying horses, with little animals—teddy bears, bunnies, cats—riding on their backs. One of my parents would set the mobile in motion, then they'd shut me in and leave me alone. But that was okay because the mobile would stay in motion until I was asleep.

Babies don't wonder why a thing doesn't need batteries. To them, the world is filled with magic. It isn't until you get older that the adults begin to dispel the magical things, one by one, for your own good. It's their duty, they say, to prepare you for reality.

Sometimes their reality turns out not to be yours. That's what happened to me.

Things were just always
there
. If I was drawing, I didn't have to look up to grab my scissors or eraser or another pen. I reached, and picked it up.

Who knows if I ever would have noticed, if it hadn't been for my getting sick halfway through summer, just after we moved to San Diego. I woke up one morning and couldn't swallow past the spikes in my throat. Mom Gwen took one look, deployed the thermometer, then banished me to bed.

The next three or four days aren't worth talking about. Dad set up the TV in my room—a big concession in our family—but I was so sick that opening my eyes gave me a headache.

By the end of the week the fever was gone, I'd watched all my favorite DVDs a million times, and I got restless. Getting up still made me light-headed, but I wanted to look through my sketchbook and mess with a drawing or two. The sketchbook was on my nightstand, where I'd left it the night before I got sick, but my pencils still lay on my desk.

I sat up in bed. The headache pounded. I flopped back, sighing as I stretched my hand toward my desk a mile away … and my fingers closed around the smooth shape of a drawing pencil.

I brought it up to my face. A perfectly ordinary pencil. Huh?

I flung the pencil to the end of my bed. It sat on the duvet beside the hump of my foot. When I wiggled my toes, the pencil began sliding off the bed. Again I reached without thinking, and there it was, in my fingers again.

My heart started thumping. Was the pencil, like, alive? I laid it on my stomach, stretched out my hand nearby, and waited. Nothing happened. I made grabbing motions with my fingers, and again nothing happened. I poked the pencil, which began to roll off. This time I was aware of the little zap in my arm muscle—the twitch just before you move—a tiny light flared blue-white and the pencil smacked into my palm.

So I tried to reach without actually reaching for the other pencils on my desk. One by one they flashed into my fingers like they were on an invisible yoyo string.

Half an hour later my head was buzzing strangely, but on my bed lay a bunch of little stuff: an eraser, rubber bands, paper clips, and more pencils. I even tried to move my sketchbook, but that one made my head go
whish-whoom
like some kind of drum, and the sketchbook sat where it was.

Maybe this was just a flu dream. I grabbed my phone to search on
flu+”side effects.”
I got more than I wanted to know about influenza (written in a jumble of scary medicalese) but nowhere did it say anything about zapping stuff with your mind.

I thought about yelling for one of my parents, but hesitated. Both my moms are cool, and so is my dad, but they are all practical people. They really like Normal. I figured out by the time I was five that having three parents wasn't Normal to some people, and as I got older, I found that it was important to my parents that we all be Normal to outsiders.

This stuff with the pencils was definitely not Normal.

Who else was there to ask? My younger brothers would be thrilled, but no way would they keep it to themselves. They'd be running all over shouting “Abracadabra,” or whatever secret power words they'd learned from cartoons or video games, trying to fly or turn invisible or shoot laser beams out of their eyes. So I decided to keep it to myself. It wasn't hurting anybody. I'd experiment in the safety of my room while I recovered.

I found that it was easy to zap things to my hand, but it was a lot harder to zap them back. My tries were so wild I had to laugh.

Practice, I knew about. It had taken lots of practice to learn how to draw manga and anime figures, which was my favorite thing to do. After a day of tries, I perceived a kind of whisper inside my head, though I couldn't tell you the actual spell. But I could zap paper clips and rubber bands to my desk blotter.

The rest of the summer I spent biking down to the beach to explore, drawing, and—when no one was around—zapping little stuff around.

The first day of school came. There I was again, in a sea of strangers, only now it was high school, bigger and scarier than middle school had been. At least there was a Gay-Straight Student Alliance. I wasn't sure yet who or what I liked, but as our many moves pretty much guaranteed little luck in finding and keeping friends, my parents had said that if a school had a version of the Alliance, it would probably be a safe place to hang out and eat lunch. Way better than finding myself totally alone in a crowd of three thousand.

The rest of school was school, and at least it was the first day in high school for all the ninth graders, not just me.

Meanwhile, I kept experimenting, and I was able to zap paper clips to land near, then in, a water glass on my desk. As the days turned into a week, the objects got a little bigger. Paper was tricky, because of the way it bent and fluttered in the air. If I moved it too fast it crumpled, and once even tore. Learning how to zap paper made me aware of stuff like air currents.

I kept my experiments to myself, either in my room or at the beach when I was alone. At school, I used my well-honed skills at blending in, like always sitting in the middle of the room if there was a choice. Front, you were too exposed, under the teacher's eye. The back was where the troublemakers like to hide from the teacher's eye.

One day in math class, I heard a guy in the back row behind me sniggering while the teacher was at the door, talking to somebody in the hall.

Our family has been moving every two years, whenever Mom Gwen was reassigned to some other military base, so I didn't make much effort to learn people's names at every new school. But you don't start over every two years without learning how to spot the bullies who go after anyone nerdy, alone, who can't fight back.

To identify possible danger, I knocked my math book off my desk. As I picked it up, I snuck a peek behind me—just as this moose of a boy tossed a spitball at a skinny girl with enormous glasses, who sat two desks away from me.

Anger boiled in my stomach. The girl wasn't doing anything. She was bent over her work, her shoulder blades poking like wing stubs at the back of her oversized tie-dye t-shirt. The spitwad was about to land in her pale, frizzy hair, unless …

I flexed my zap muscle, and zinged the spitball right back at the boy. It landed on his cheek with a splat.

The boy jerked like he'd sat on cactus, and the entire back row broke into snickers. The teacher whirled around, her eyes going straight to the boy, who was wiping the spitball off his face, and said, “Lunch detention, Kyle Moore.”

“But I didn't do
anything!

“Would you like after-school detention as well?”

I bent over my notebook, my heart pounding.

I'd broken my promise to never use my power outside my room, but zapping a bully had felt good.

So good that I couldn't resist another opportunity to try my power.

When I look in my mirror in the morning, I see a plain girl with brown hair and a round face and a duck body. Normal. Normal for my parents means well-adjusted, successfully fitting in. At school, it means you're boring. The only way to popularity, if you aren't pretty or rich, is being good at sports, or having some kind of other talent.

All the P.E. classes had begun a basketball unit while the coaches tried to scout players for school sports. Like most of the girls who weren't athletic, basketball for me meant trying to remember all the rules and staying out of the way of the knees and elbows of the bigger, more aggressive girls.

The second day, near the end of the period, the score was tied, and the swarm of girls somehow surrounded me. A fierce red-haired junior yelled, “Hey, you,
wake up
!

“Ibberts!” bellowed the teacher, who was also the referee.

My hands came up defensively in front of me and I found myself holding the ball.

“Shoot!” everybody screamed.

I didn't think, I just tossed the ball up and then zapped it straight to the basket to get it away from me.

My teammates shrieked, the bell rang, and we headed for the locker room, everyone yelling “Great shot!” and “That was awesome!” at me. The fierce girl said, “Whoa, how did you get that spin on it? That was amazing.”

I felt good. I felt as good as I had when I zapped that spitwad back at Kyle Whoever—who, I noticed, hadn't thrown another spitwad in that class.

The next day, the ball got passed to me twice, and both times I zapped it. Again the praise, which really felt great. Especially since they didn't seem to see that little flare of light, or maybe they thought it was a reflection.

After that, when the ball got passed to me, I zapped it every time. I never tried to go after it. I didn't like being knocked into and shoved, but if the ball got to my hands, I made sure it went straight to the basket.

“You're a natural, kid,” Coach Albert said, giving me a hearty thump on the back. Like most P.E. teachers, Ms. Albert was terrifyingly athletic. She looked at me like I'd sprouted feathers, then said, “I want you to start coming to after-school practice. You might go straight into varsity.”

I didn't know what to say. When I told the parents, they all looked as surprised as the coach had, but Mom Tate said, “Awesome! I used to love volleyball,” Mom Gwen said, “Of course you can stay after school, just make sure you have your phone with you for the bus ride home,” and Dad said, “Why not give it a try?” Like
why not give boiled turnips a try?
He definitely did not have the sports gene.

BOOK: Zapped
12.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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