The Changed | Teen Ink

The Changed

December 18, 2014
By IAceEnglish PLATINUM, Altamonte Springs, Florida
IAceEnglish PLATINUM, Altamonte Springs, Florida
26 articles 0 photos 10 comments

Favorite Quote:
One does not have a claim on one's life, only the right to use it. – Dharma Master Shih Chang Yen

My name is Jaqueline Condrikes.

So, I suppose this doesn’t have an easy start, the kind that says “it was just a normal day,” that sort of thing. It has a bit of a more mysterious beginning, as in “long, long ago, in a place far away,” though not as cheesy. It starts a little like this: one day, my life changed forever.

I admit, not exactly original. But that’s the only the only way I can describe it. I was at a summer camp with my sister. It was one of those things that takes place in a national park. As our entire Girl Scout troop was going, we didn’t really have a choice.

We were two days into the outing when it happened. A scavenger hunt was started between us and the other troops there. At around midday, Kimberly and I happened upon a hole in the ground. We weren’t sure what it was, but I thought I saw something in there. I leaned over it to get a better look and, like any person doing so, I lost my balance. Kim tried to pull me back, but I was too far over and pulled her with me.

We only fell about 10 feet, but it hurt. I split my chin when we landed. My sister had something of a softer landing, since she landed on top of me. The air was knocked out of my lungs, so I could barely breathe until she got off of me.

“Are you okay?” someone called down.

“Yeah,” I replied. “Could use a little help, though.”

“We’ll get some rope,” our friends replied. Several pairs of feet ran away. I hoped that somebody had stayed behind.

Then, a white beam of light shot through the hole. It landed straight on us. We were blinded. Even covering our eyes with our hands didn’t help. After a few seconds, everything went dark.

When I opened my eyes, my vision was splotched with moving color. I couldn’t see my surroundings at all.

“Great,” Kim complained none too softly.

“What you said,” I groaned. “Dangit,” I muttered when one of my contacts slid to one side due to my rubbing. Thankfully I managed to move it back.

Some footsteps sounded above us. “Hey, Kim, Jaq, we got a rope!” one of our fellow campers called. “Why you rubbing your eyes, man?”

“Some freaky act of nature,” I called. “Beam of sunlight came in through the hole. We got caught in it. I don’t think either of us can see very well right now.”

“Ya think?” Kim asked sarcastically.

By the time I was helped out, my vision had improved somewhat, but the eye with the errant contact was weepy and itched like crazy. I noted that the person who had shortened my name was a boy scout, the self proclaimed “surfer dude” from San Francisco, Dan Randalls. I looked at him and asked, “How many times will I have to tell you not to shorten my name like that?”

He looked a little embarrassed. “Sorry,” Dan apologized to my back.

I took out my contacts when I got back to the cabin, and sat out the rest of the night on the team leader’s orders. The next day, I learned about a legend behind the little cave we had fallen in.

“The hole that you found was part of an unusual natural phenomena. At a specific time, the sun’s rays go directly through the hole and form a beam of sunlight. Legend has it that if you stand in the beam, you will gain magical abilities. Or at least, that’s what the original inhabitants of this island said before it became a park,” the guide added, smiling along with those who laughed. “Perhaps we can find out if the legend is true,” he hinted, looking at my sister and I. I made a face as more people chuckled at our expense.

Still, I wondered about it, mostly because of something that had happened to me the night before. I had been trying to turn on the flashlight, and gotten so frustrated that I said aloud, “Come on, you. Turn on!” Thankfully it had. Oddly enough, although I was behind a closed door and said it in a low voice, a friend several feet away had heard me. She couldn’t have heard me without supernatural hearing. She had been at least 10 feet away from me.

That day was the last of the camp. I was hoping for an uneventful day after the camp, but that was not to be. I wanted to see if I could replicate it again, and I should have guessed that something was going to happen after my sister said something strange.

“Something’s going to happen today,” she had remarked. At the time I was tired and wished for a nice, relaxing day.

“I hope it’s a kind of something that I’ll like,” I had grumbled in reply. “I’m tired.”

It had been out of the blue, but then again, so had our experience. And really, what was I expecting, that any proving of my theory would be relaxing and not cause excitement?

Back in my room, I was sitting in my blue swivel chair by my desk. Deciding to get a drink of water, I went to stand up, bumping the side of the desk as I did so. A precariously balanced stick of lip-gloss started to fall over.

“Dangit!” I cursed, and grabbed the object before it hit the desk. I straightened and started to set it back, but then I stopped. I had been facing almost the opposite direction. Also, gravity does not need a split-second to process that something has been knocked over before it pulls the object down, like a human brain does to react to something. It was on top of a book on my desk, and would have had about an inch to fall. To put it short, I had reacted too fast. Way too fast.

I stared at my hand and the lip-gloss in its grasp. My sister’s words echoed in my head. Something’s going to happen today. For a few seconds she had been a prophetess.

“Well, you got what you wanted, didn’t you?” I asked myself. I had to tell Kimberly about this. As it turned out, I didn’t have to go downstairs. I heard a knock on my door and rushed to answer it. Not until I had my hand on the doorknob I realized that I had once more moved too fast. An action that should have taken at least five seconds had taken about two.

“I know you’re there,” Kim informed me from behind the door. She sounded a little temperamental. I opened it, but before I opened my mouth, she took over. “Close the door,” she instructed. I did. Then, she did something I didn’t expect. She held out a hand, palm up, and flames began to dance upon it like a candle.

All I could do was stare. “No way,” I burst out. “You’ve got powers too!”

“Yup,” she replied in that mock-cheerful way she can assume sometimes, but with no grin this time. “That legend is true.”

I stared down at my own hands, filled with a sudden fear. I looked up at my sister.

“What is happening to us?” I whispered.

Over time, we found out the exact extent of our newfound powers. I could manipulate sound, had a kind of sonar vision, and mimic a sound, such as a birdcall, with uncanny accuracy. I found that I could manipulate my own voice when I mimicked a man on TV, only to find that I sounded exactly like him. I finally had a legit (but secret) reason to claim that I screamed like Banshee, the comic book superhero, after a startled shriek caused a painting to fall and the pane to shatter. Also, I accidentally hurt a neighbor I was annoyed at by unconsciously making him hear voices in his head.

You would have a lot more reason to be scared of Kimberly, though. Not only could she control fire and heat in general, she could burn things by thinking about it, breathe fire like a dragon, and spontaneously combust! She could even teleport in a whirl of flame, causing me to get a little jealous. I was honestly surprised she couldn’t throw fireballs, but I figured that it probably wouldn’t be best to say that out loud. Also, she possessed borderline precognesis, as she could predict something with uncanny accuracy. Thankfully, we were both resistant to our own powers, which prevented her from being burned and me from bursting my eardrums wide open.

After a while my headaches disappeared, and I began to devote time for experimentation, using my diary as an informal notepad to record results like any good scientist. I found that I could make my voice go as high or low as I wanted it to be, and could definitely beat the world record for fastest reaction time and fastest running speed. Standing in the middle of my street, I could “see” both the intersection and the cul-de-sac, which meant that I had a range of at least 50 feet, at my guestimation. There were no colors; only varying shades of blue. However, everything was outlined even more sharply than when I had my eyes open, and it became a kind of natural night vision for me.

Our street backed up against a forest. Kimberly created subtle marks on trees that no one would see unless they knew what to look for by scraping away pieces of bark and searing the exposed wood. Roughly shaped diamonds of blackened wood guided us to a clearing where we practiced. That is the only way I can describe it. We experimented, tested our limits, even played. A large circle of dirt took shape over the next few months.  I sometimes teased that she had become a fire-bender, to which she always said that I had become an even louder screamer than I had been before. Touché, sister.

Our secret was finally divulged in a my-secret-for-your-secret kind of moment. It was a few months after that encounter with the supernatural at summer camp. She had decided to work on homework (who worked on the weekends!?); thus, I was alone at the clearing. I had bought karaoke versions of many songs I liked and synced them onto my phone, and I was going to attempt a genre of music I never had before: rap. I put on “Problem” and was attempting Iggy Azalea’s part when my phone let me know that a call was coming in, the ringtone suggesting it was Kimberly. I unplugged the phone and answered it.

“Hello?” I asked.

“Get over here now,” she commanded.

“Why? Are the parents home already?” I inquired, unwilling to leave just yet.

“You want to see this,” I was informed.

“Can you just tell me?” I asked.

The phone beeped. She had hung up. Miffed, I sighed aloud and ran back home. I knew the way well by now, and even though the colors and shapes blurred I could still read the signs (some perk of my hyperspeed was that I could take in everything much faster). I held my phone in my hand; I would never risk losing it, even though the hot pink, diamond-studded cover would be easily visible. I slowed when I caught a glimpse of the row of houses lining my street. I walked around the house and closed the garage door as I went inside.

“All right, I’m here, what do you want?” I called. No answer. When I stepped into the living room, I saw her on the couch with another girl. She was flaxen-haired and blue-eyed, and wore pants and a long sleeved shirt, both the same shade of purple. My first comparison was that of a slightly younger version of Barbie without the tan.

“This is Mia,” my sister said to me, then turned to the girl. “Mia, Jacqueline.”

Mia smiled and held out a hand. I shook it warily. Before I could ask why she had let a stranger in the house, Kimberly told Mia, “Do what you showed me. She’ll believe us that way.” Sometimes I hated that sixth-sense of hers. It gave her the right to assume what I would act like with uncanny accuracy. The feeling was washed away by when happened in front of my eyes.

She disappeared. If I had blinked I would have missed it. I was somewhat nonplussed.

“Um . . . What did I just see?” I asked hesitantly.

“I’m like you guys,” Mia replied. “I can control light. I understand you can control sound.”

“Yes,” I said slowly. I looked at Kimberly. “How did she know?”

“She saw us,” was the succinct answer. I sighed.

“Well, lets just hope no one else finds out,” I said.

“My boyfriend did, actually,” Mia said. “He told me. Don’t worry, he won’t say anything,” she assured me.

“He’d better not,” Kim mumbled.

Andrew, Mia’s boyfriend, was actually a pretty nice person. Like her, he was blonde-haired and blue-eyed. He made our number grow to four, as he had powers too. It actually felt nice to have a bigger circle of secret-holders. Andrew seemed especially excited to learn that Kim had fire powers, which I found weird.

I felt left out on one thing: an ability they had in different variations but which I did not possess.

“I wish I could teleport like you guys. All I can do is run at fifty miles per hour,” I complained at a small gathering. Yes, they could teleport. Mia dissolved in a shower of sparks, Kimberly turned into a column of flames which dissipated a few seconds later, and Andrew could open up portals –– portals! –– leading to another spot. Since he could move more than one person at a time, we usually met at the clearing before going to the island so I could come along. It was viewed as the safest place to be, as it was less public and we could hide easily. There was a small gap in the trees where we could practice our own powers in secret, or just talk. I called them “meetings,” for lack of a better term. At one of these meetings we got yet another life-changing event thrown at us, once again by the Hole.

It was a Saturday, so we were all there. I had wanted to get away from school after a long morning of math, and wanted to see the phenomena that had caused my life to get out of kilter almost four months before. We sat there and waited until that time of day occurred.

There was a giant flash. When I came to, I was laying on my stomach. My overall head hurt, and I had sparks in front of my eyes.

“Owww,” someone groaned. Everybody else was dazedly sitting up as well, and Andy was wincing as he touched the back of his head.

Great, I thought. What happened this time?

“I don’t know,” Kim said out of the blue. Everyone turned towards her, confused. She looked that way as well.

“What? You did wonder what happened, didn’t you, Jacqueline?” she asked me.

“Not out loud,” I replied, unsure of what was going on.

“No way,” Mia whispered. “Kimberly, you read her mind!”

“Now just wait a minute, missy!” Kimberly replied. There was no mistaking the frustration/confusion-induced sharpness in her tone. “I can not do that! That’s impossible!”

We all ignored her exclamation. Immediately, we began to discuss what may happen to us. I met it with pure resignation.

“Great,” I sighed, aloud this time.

Like the first time, we found our powers in a flood of events over the next month. Andy could suddenly manipulate energy. Kimberly was, in my words, “a full-blown psychic,” which was true. Mia, fittingly enough, could manipulate shadows, and had another teleportation method. I could manipulate the cold. It was handy, given that we all lived in Florida, but I couldn’t teleport. That was still a matter of frustration to me.

“Look at it this way, Angela,” Mia told me once in her smooth, soft tone. “You can see with your eyes closed. You can lower the temperature around yourself. You can create a cold breeze on a hot day. I want to be able to do that.”

“I’m just a walking air-conditioner, am I?” I joked.

Her words didn’t make me less jealous, but I felt a little better anyways.

We were found out by most unlikely of people – a boy from my English class named Ethan – and busted by an equally unlikely person.

Halloween, a month after our new powers erupted. Kimberly was coming home from a sleepover a few streets over, and the street party was set up. I was in charge of the drinks. My parents had gone down already, so I was alone. I went to grab some ice to bring to the cooler in the garage and almost immediately ran out. I frowned. This wouldn’t be good. If the past held up, people would begin disbanding after the trick-or-treaters got back, which would be late in the night. The various drinks had to remain cool for a while, as long as people needed them.

I rolled my eyes. “Seriously, Jackie. You actually have to puzzle over how to get extra ice.”

I closed the blinds of the house first – because I had to – then stuffed the drinks in, knelt down, and held my hands over the cooler, palms facing up. The air temperature dropped so quickly my breath actually showed for a few seconds before my immunity to cold kicked in. Ice cubes formed over my palms and spilled over into the cooler. I did this until it was full, making sure there was something of an even layer on it. I then closed the cooler and lugged it up to the front of the street.

“I had just enough ice,” I announced breathlessly. I shook my arms a little. “Man, my arms feel like jelly,” I laughed. My parents and a couple neighbors within earshot laughed with me.

“I’ll be right back!” I called as I walked back to the house. I was still in my jeans and jacket, though I didn’t really need the pants. Still, it would be weird if I walked out in shorts and the tank top I was wearing under the jacket. It was fifty degrees, after all, and I was a little notorious for being the first one to complain of the temperature.

It only took a couple minutes to change into my costume. I was a pirate this year, just for a change. I tried on the wig, which consisted of long, curly black hair and a bandana. At the sight of my reflection, I made a face and ditched it in favor of my own straight, brown hair, and tied it in a messy bun.

When I walked out, I noticed that Ethan Verdagio was standing on the driveway. Anyone who saw him at school would know he was a goth/emo type. Strangely enough, he is actually a bookworm, much like myself. He was wearing an outfit that confused me a little, until I connected it with a picture of an Assassin’s Creed costume I had seen a week earlier, when I was rushing to find my own costume. His face was grim.

“Trying to get into character?” I called lightly.

“Look at this,” he said, getting right to business. He pulled out a video camera and pulled up a video. He tapped the “play” button. The schoolyard panned out in front of my eyes.

“Umm . . . I’m not sure what you’re trying to show me,” I said, confused.

“Yeah, I missed it too, until I looked at it afterwards,” he said. “Here.” He used his finger to drag the video to the correct time, about three quarters of the way through. He pressed play, then paused it almost immediately. He zoomed in a little bit and pointed at the middle of the picture.

“Who does this look like?” he asked me. I squinted. It looked a lot like Kim. She was kneeling by a stone bench, arm outstretched. Her hand was hidden, as the bench was one of the ones that look like a rectangle of stone jutting from the ground.

“My sister. What are you getting at?” I asked. I was getting a bad feeling.

He moved on to the next video, shot a few minutes after the first. The camera bobbed a bit as he walked up to where she had been. The concrete was a little white, as if someone had smeared ashes on it. A peek under the seat of the bench revealed a pile of ash, as if she had been burning it.

“Well?” he asked. The look on his face was accusatory, as was his tone. I barely heard him though. I replayed it in order to buy time to summon a poker face.

“It looks like she burned a piece of paper or something,” I stated.

“Her actions are strange, Angela. For one thing, she would have left more evidence of what had been burned if she had used a match, and who holds their hand over a flame? You know something. You’re a good liar, but you have an idea of what she did back there. Don’t lie to me! Something happened back there that you don’t want anyone to know about. What is it?” he demanded, stepping back a little to see my face better.

I was silent. I wasn’t sure how to react. I cast a look up the street, wondering if someone would come down and rescue me.

“If that’s what you want,” Ethan replied smoothly. “I’ll stay silent about this. I promise. But please, meet me on the beach tomorrow at 2pm.” With that, he walked away, passing Kimberly and the rest of the gang as he turned on the sidewalk. I let my fury show as I stormed up to meet them.

“I can’t believe it! YOU, of all people!” I burst out through clenched teeth.

Kim stepped back, surprised, then slumped. “What?” Mia asked curiously. She was a cat for Halloween.

“Ethan was taping a video for school and he caught Kimberly burning something!” I explained, then whirled on Kimberly. “We’re all busted BIG TIME because you decided it was okay to burn something at school!” I snarled.

Andy whistled. “****,” he remarked. This earned him an admonishing slap from Mia, then she turned her glare on my sister. It was almost funny to watch a guy dressed as Elvis get told off by a cat.

“I don’t believe it,” was all she said, throwing her hands up in the air. “I’d expected someone else, honestly!” At this Andy looked a little insulted, and held his hands up in the air as if in surrender.

“Ok, fine, fine, I admit, that was dumb,” Kimberly confessed, “I didn’t know he was watching. I won’t do it again, I swear. May I get my jacket now?”

I stood there for a few seconds, then stepped aside to let her pass. I took a few breaths to calm myself. I was so mad that the temperature was dropping and frost had formed around my feet. I tried to push the scene out of my mind as I walked up the street. I would try to have a little fun tonight despite the events that had just transpired. I would stay mad at her for days, though.

• • • • •

The next day, my curiosity won over me, so I slipped on short shorts and a tank top and ran to the beach. It was Sunday, so there weren’t many people there. Wasn’t anyone at all, actually. At least, not that I could see from my vantage point on top of the dune.

“Hey!” a voice called from behind me. I turned, surprised. “Hi,” I replied, smiling and waving politely.

“Come on,” Ethan beckoned. We walked down to the sand. I stopped at the point where the sand became damp, but he kept on going until his feet were in the water.

It was like he had turned into water. This mass of sparkling liquid extended, changing form. Then, just as suddenly as it had happened, it solidified again. What I saw in front of me forced me to do a double take. Ethan was now sporting a long, sky blue mermaid tail!

“Wish the sand was a little softer,” he remarked, grimacing a little.

“Uh . . .” My voice trailed off. I wasn’t sure what to say.

After he had pulled himself clear of the water, he demonstrated another ability: he could heat up water to the point of evaporation. He stood up and crossed his arms.

“A secret for a secret, Jackie,” he said. I realized how well he had pulled it off. I had a reputation as being more inquisitive than the metaphorical cat. He had used my natural curiosity to lure me into his trap, then pulled it shut long before I even began to suspect something was off.

I slumped dejectedly. You are so going to pay for this, sister, I thought to myself. Before I told him, though, I looked him in the eye.

“If I tell you this, you’re gonna have to promise not to tell anyone about this, okay? No one at all.”

“Got it,” Ethan replied. From the look on his face, I believed he would. He didn’t know whether or not I would hold his secret – that he was an honest-to-goodness merman! – as foolproof leverage.

I lowered the temperature so much that he began to shiver, even though it was almost 70º out there. He could see his breath in the air. He looked surprised. I grinned at his expression, then let the air around us warm up and jogged back a ways, motioning for him to move back farther. “Can you hear me?” I asked at a normal volume. He would have heard me as if I were right next to him instead of several yards away. Ethan nodded slowly. I had probably looked at him the same way.

Ethan crossed the distance between us.

“Is that all you can do?” he asked tentatively, as if unsure what I would say.

I grinned mischievously. “Nope,” I replied.

Ethan returned to business. “So, what happened back there at school?”

“I’m not the only one,” I began, scuffing the sand with my flipflop. “There’s Kim, and a couple friends, too. We all have powers. They can even teleport,” I added enviously.

“Okay,” he said slowly, motioning for me to continue.

“My sister has fire powers. She must have been burning a paper or something. I was so mad I got out of character,” I admitted.

“I hope she apologized,” Ethan laughed.

I smiled. “She did. She was about as happy as I was.” I pulled out my phone and went to the group text.

I texted.

“Huh?” Ethan asked.

“Go to my house at . . .” I calculated the time it would take for someone to walk to the clearing from my house at a normal speed. “3:45. You’ll see,” I added mysteriously. “See you then!”

I crossed back over the dune and took off running.

• • • • •

“See you then!” Jacqueline called over her shoulder to Ethan. Then, she turned into a blur and disappeared. He managed to catch that her legs were moving too fast for a normal running speed before she vanished around the bend, following the biking trail.

“Whoa,” he said softly, grinning to himself. “Okay, Ethan. 3:45pm.”

• • • • •

At exactly a quarter of an hour until 4pm, Ethan showed up. I was sitting outside in the yard, my nose in a book. I looked up as his car pulled in.

“Hey!” I called, waving.

“Hi,” was his reply.

“Follow me,” I commanded once he got out of the car. He looked curious, but didn’t ask any questions.

I led him along the path, which I knew by heart. I kept my eyes closed, trusting my sonar systems instead of visual cues. Objects and obstacles showed up as clear as they would with my eyes open. I strode confidently ahead, sensing that Ethan was not far behind.

When we reached the broken log that served as the last landmark before the clearing, I opened my eyes again. The vibrant blue outlines of my surroundings disappeared, and my world flooded with color. Now I had to turn to know where Ethan was, but I could hear him behind me, so it wasn’t necessary.

I could see the others in the center of the clearing. Kimberly and Mia were continuing their ongoing contest to see who could create the most destruction. Kim won every time, but to Mia’s credit she kept on trying.

“Please don’t attack Ethan,” I asked politely, throwing my voice in their direction.

They all turned their heads. They looked surprised when they saw Ethan behind me.

“Ah, hi, everybody,” Ethan said tentatively. He was right to be apprehensive.

“Why the hell would you bring someone here?” Andy asked incredulously.

“Because he’s different. Not like us, but different,” I explained. Kimberly gaped a few seconds after I said this. Presumably, she had read my mind.

“Wow,” was all she said, and looked in Andy and Mia’s direction. They started and stared at Ethan. The looks on their faces were pretty funny. Mia walked up to Ethan and held out her hand.

“Welcome to the club, Ethan,” she told him, smiling graciously.

“Thanks,” he replied, still sounding a little nervous.

Most of our time was spent talking. We answered his questions to the best of our ability, and Ethan answered ours. He had become a merman after ending up inside a pool of water over which the moon had passed over. He couldn’t swim without gaining his tail; even a drop of water would transform him. However, he had powers similar in nature to our own, one of which was the ability to evaporate water just by clenching his fist. Thus, he could dry off before being discovered. An unfortunate side effect of his method of Change was that if he looked at the full moon, he would become hypnotized, and wouldn’t snap out of it until the moon set or he dried off. He had been doing good for the most part, but didn’t want to find out what happened if he touched the water. It was an overall learning experience. We all agreed that our next meeting would be at the “moon pool” as he called it. I think Ethan was as glad as the rest of us that nothing bad had happened in leu of Kimberly’s error.

Or so we thought.

• • • • •

A week after our first meeting at our new location, we learned something that had even worse ramifications for all of us than when Ethan had caught Kim in the act. Ethan volunteered at a minor science lab, and co-worker Emma Fieldings had taken a picture of Ethan, blue tail and all, and was following up on it with a vengeance, not knowing that the person she was trying to track down was her partner. She had also discovered the location of the moonpool and a scale that had fallen off of his tail.

“No more meetings at the moonpool,” was Kimberly’s suggestion, and we all agreed to follow it. We would meet at the clearing, like usual. I took care to show Ethan the carefully hidden markers that showed the way, so he wouldn’t have to follow one of us indefinitely. At the start of these meetings, he would let us know their progress on the “enigma.”

It was shocking, how fast she moved. She somehow managed to find the moonpool, though what preparations she had made, if any, Ethan could not say. Ethan decided it was best for the group to gather at Andy’s house and stay there for the night, to make sure he wouldn’t get in a lot of trouble.

“I’d be surrounded by several people who are a lot more powerful than I am,” was his reasoning. “How far would I be able to get?”

He spoke too soon.

Andy’s house was large and on the beach, more than big enough for everybody. At first it all went well. Every blind in the house was closed, so the only way he would be able to see the moon would be to open the door, which we had no intention of doing. That wouldn’t happen, hopefully, since Andy had assured us that no one was coming by. Kim and I were the last ones to show up. Mia met us at the door.

“Just in time. The moon should be rising about . . . now,” Andy called. “Keep the door closed at all times, guys.”

“We know,” Kim replied immediately.

We all sat down for a movie recorded on the DVR.

“The Incredibles?” I asked Andy, surprised. “You are just full of surprises, aren’t you?”

“I like them,” Andy mumbled, looking embarrassed.

About an hour into it, we ran out of popcorn, so Ethan volunteered to go make more.

“Are you sure you don’t want someone to go with you?” Mia asked, concerned.

“I’ll be okay,” he replied. “If I do get hypnotized, you’ll be able to tell, right? We have a clairvoyant right here.” Kim looked a little miffed at his term, as she preferred the proper term, which encompassed her entire range of abilities.

A few minutes later, when the microwave beeped, Kimberly said something strange. “Something is going on.”

“Yeah. We’re waiting for Ethan to bring the popcorn,” Andy cracked.

“The moon can’t hypnotize him if he can’t actually see it,” Mia assured her.

“No, really! When will anybody take me seriously!” she burst out angrily. “I’m going to check.” She stormed off. I punched Andy lightly on the shoulder.

“Way to go,” I told him. He cast a What did I do? look at me, then slumped. “I’m being attacked by girls today,” he grumbled.

Ethan’s gone! A blind is up! He must have caught a glimpse of the moonlight and pulled it back! Kim’s voice rang in our heads.

“Ow! Turn down the volume!” I complained. It was a funny thing for me to say, since I was immune to loud noises, but it only worked for actual physical sounds, not the kind broadcasted into one’s head.

Sorry, she apologized. Let’s go! Who knows how long he’s been gone?

Mia grabbed a flashlight and we all ran into the kitchen. A ball of pink light appeared in Andy’s hand as he prepared to open a portal.

“Wait! Make it go on the beach. I have a bad feeling about this,” Kim halted him quickly.

Andy nodded, not willing to argue with her now. The glow appeared again, this time leaving his hand. An oval of light appeared in front of us. Through it we caught a glimpse of sand and a cliff, though it looked as if it were under the surface of a pool.

I felt the familiar brief tingle when I leaped through. I heard the soft thump of sand under my feet. The moment the portal snapped closed, the beach went dark, save for the full moon, which glinted off the waves over the horizon. While everyone else turned on their flashlights, I closed my eyes. Outlines appeared in front of me. I had no need for a flashlight.

There was no need for words between us. We began our trek uphill through the brush, hoping that we would reach the cave and, thus, the moonpool, before Ethan did. As it turned out, we took second place.

Ethan’s boss, Professor Fieldings, had established a base outside the entrance to the cave. We were caught as we ran around the rock face to find ourselves face-to-face with a man in a wet suit.

Don’t run, Kimberly advised telepathically.

Have I ever said how jealous I am of your sixth sense? I sent out a thought.

Nope, was her succint reply.

“Who are you?” A woman in a lab coat strode into view. I assumed this was Emma Fieldings. She was a tall, blonde woman whose posture suggested that she would deal with no nonsense.

“He hasn’t arrived yet?” Mia asked hopefully.

“Who’s he?” Fieldings asked.

The entire story poured out. “The pool in there is magic. If you’re in that pool when the full moon passes over it, you’ll get the ability to turn into a mermaid. The merman you’ve been tracking is Ethan Verdagio. We’re friends of his. Somehow, if he looks at the full moon, it hypnotizes him, and he won’t wake up until it sets. We don’t know what he might do,” I explained quickly.

“What would happen if he touched the water?” she inquired, narrowing her eyes. We all looked at each other.

“We’ve never tried to find out,” Mia said slowly.

“Crap.” This was not the kind of reaction we had expected. “Well, I suppose we’re all about to find out,” she sighed. “Come in.”

We ran ahead. Sure enough, there he was. Andy swore under his breath, which summed up all our feelings.

“The moon can’t hypnotize him if he can’t actually see it,” I mimicked.

“Knock him out with voices,” Kim suggested in a whisper. “He won’t be able to block you out, and I can’t get him out of the water. I’ve been trying since I saw him in the pool.”

“Yeah,” I muttered. “Hey, E!” I addressed him. He turned his head to face me. “Hold him up,” I told Kimberly, then did what she had suggested.

I knew what he would be hearing. Thousands of voices, screaming at him. Ethan thrashed in the pool, yelling in pain, not going underwater due to a firm telekinetic grasp. After about 10 seconds, he went limp. Kimberly managed to lift him up and out of the moonpool, then used her ability to raise the ambient temperature to dry him off. We heard a gasp of amazement from behind us.

“Amazing,” Professor Fieldings whispered. Her gaze looked like that of an avaricious man who had just been given access to a treasure chest. She turned to us.

“How did you do that?” she demanded. “Are you like him? If I could figure out what causes that transformation and replicate it, it could have huge ramifications for science and technology!” She looked a little dreamy. “What else can you do?” she asked.

I cast my gaze through the cave. Equipment had been set up everywhere. Cameras, floodlights, everything one would need. I realized that probably everything had been recorded. There was only one way of keeping the secret.

I leaned in towards the nearest camera and breathed on it. The air in front of my mouth misted. The camera was suddenly encased in ice.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Were you using that? I totally didn’t realize,” I said with my sweetest smile, not meaning a word of it. My actions sparked a chain reaction. All but one of the lights were destroyed by flashes of energy, all of the cameras were either melted or encased in ice, and the acrid smell of fried motherboards filled the air.

We turned to look at her.

“That was just a fraction of what we can do,” I informed her grimly. “Now, you have no proof. You will be laughed at. You are the only outsider who has seen this. Now, you can either promise you will never say anything, or she –” I motioned to Kim “– will wipe your memories of this night clean, and you will find yourself in your lab surrounded by destroyed equipment.” Now, this was an empty threat, but still. She looked pretty intimidated.

We heard a groan. Ethan was waking up.

“Owww,” he groaned, wincing. He looked around, then seemed to realize what happened. “I blew it, didn’t I?” he asked. He then noticed Emma Fieldings. “What happened here?” he demanded.

“Oh, we just erased what evidence she had of us being special,” I replied lightly. Then, we noticed something. An orange glow was emanating from a box perched near the edge of the water.

“What the . . .” I trailed off, confused.

Ethan approached and opened the lid.

“Don’t touch it!” Fieldings gasped. “It will kill you!”

“I have it,” Kim said, lifting it up. The object was strange. It was a cube. It looked like it was made of stone, but strange patterns were carved on it. From these the glow was coming.

Suddenly, it shot over the water so forcefully that Kimberly was yanked to one side and yelped as her hold was broken. Thankfully, Ethan caught her before she fell on the ground.

A shaft of light shot down through the hole above the cave, and the moonpool began to boil. The floodlight went out, which made the moonlight and the weird artifact the only source of illumination. Ethan took a step towards it, but Mia stopped him. “Hey, be careful,” she warned.

Suddenly, a burst of light shot out from it, followed by a gust of wind. My hair was blasted away from my face, and my clothes were plastered against my body. I blinked the black spots from my eyes, rubbing them repeatedly. Then, I heard a crackling sound, followed by a wordless cry of surprise.

I stared at myself. I was turning black! Stiff, black patches were spreading over my body, seemingly from nowhere! My eyes widened, and I began to hyperventilate. What the heck was happening?! And all the while, the orange light lit up the area around me.

“Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!” I heard someone saying, but I couldn’t tell who was saying it.

I squeezed my eyes shut as it crept over my face, covering me completely.

• • • • •

Darkness. I was surrounded by black, weightless, as if I were in space. Is this how Andy felt when he warped gravity around himself, allowing him to float as if he were a balloon? The feeling had a strangely calming effect, even as I remembered what had happened a few seconds ago. Or . . . was it a few seconds? How long have I been out?
I felt as if I were trapped in something hard, something that held me captive in an iron grip, holding me in place.

Light. I could feel my prison breaking, chipping off in spurts. A chunk fell off one eye, allowing me to open it. From my field of vision, I could see another person breaking free, though I couldn’t tell whom. I could hear faint voices, muffled since my ears were covered. Larger chunks began to fall off of my arms, my legs. Then, a force buffeted me, as if I had been hit. My cocoon cracked and shattered, falling into pieces around me. I stumbled and nearly fell. Looking around, I noticed that Andy was standing still. Kinetic energy. Right. A splash revealed that Ethan had fallen completely into the water, poor thing.

I looked at myself and noticed something horrific: I had changed! My fingertips ended in curved talons. My skin was completely hidden under white feathers. Bare skin remained in patches; I could see that my fingers and palms had no feathers. A look at my feet, visible in my sandals, revealed that there were none on my toes either.

I looked at the others. Andy looked like himself, but everyone else . . .

Mia was lit up like a candle. A blue light was emanating from under her skin, focusing to bright points where her eyes were. She lit up the entire cave, she was so bright.

Kimberly, upon closer inspection, had fiery red eyes, and the whites of her eyes had turned completely black.

Ethan was more fish than merman now. He was completely covered in sky blue scales. His hair was gone. Where his ears had been, large fins dominated. I could see strange ridges on his neck. Gills, perhaps? The only part of him that looked human was his brown eyes.

“Oh, man,” Andy said slowly. “We are so doomed.”

“To put it lightly,” Kimberly replied acidly.

“We have new powers,” Mia said abruptly after a moment of silence. “Did you all have visions?” she asked. I nodded slowly, surprised. She connected the dots fast, that girl.

“I have luminescence, and everyone but me and Andy changed physically. We have new abilities, and who knows what that means!” my friend continued. I walked to a box and touched it . . . and it turned to ice. I stared.

“I think she’s right,” I said. As they turned to look, I reached over to a paper and tapped it, but this time, it didn’t work. I looked at my hand, perplexed, then recalled that it took thought to use a power, not just automatic reflex. Number one rule.

I pictured it turning to ice and, as I had expected, it turned to a thin sheet of ice. I grinned. “Nifty,” I remarked.

The blue light in the cavern, Mia’s light, began to dim, then went out completely. We turned. The luminescence coming from her had faded utterly. She looked relatively normal now. I was impressed, then realized what she had just done. Mia had controlled her glow, an idea voiced out loud by Ethan.

“You turned the glow off,” he stated. “Help me out of here?” he asked hopefully. I caught his drift immediately. Perhaps the fish-man appearance was only donned when he touched water.

This suggestion was proven correct. Without his tail, Ethan was normal, human-looking. I attempted to do something similar. I pictured myself the way I had been before, just normal. I focused on that picture until my head hurt. I opened my eyes, looking down. My skin was visible again; the feathers were no longer there. I sighed with relief. I could see my freckles again! Strange, how reassuring that was in the face of this latest change.

I cast a look at everyone else. “Well, at least we can look normal still,” I remarked, relieved. Kimberly, too, had lost her fiery eyes. They returned, though, just a second after I comprehended the sight. She stormed past me.

“You had better not tell anyone what happened here,” she warned a petrified Emma Fieldings, whom we had momentarily forgotten was there. “I will erase your memories if you record anything down.”

The professor nodded slowly, wide-eyed.

“Dial it down a notch, Kim,” Ethan said softly. “For some reason I don’t think she’ll be telling this to anybody any time soon.”

• • • • •

It was our last power gain. I could turn something into ice, Kimberly had control over seismic and volcanic activity, Mia could glow, Andy could see anywhere he wanted, and Ethan could manipulate the weather. Mia, Kimberly, Andrew and I learned that while we could make our fairly more monstrous appearances away through practice, it was as if our “default” look had gone from that of a normal Homo Sapiens to the terrifying creatures I described. We could lie and pretend that we were just like everyone around us as we had before, but there was no longer denying a fact that had been true since that day at the camp: we are not human.

About 3 years later, in my sophomore year of college, I fell in love with the lead singer of the college band, Roark Gordon. One night, I finally did something I never thought I would do again: I told another person our secret. I didn’t spare him anything. That night, he saw what I had become. But instead of recoiling, he grinned. “Awesome,” Roark said, then got serious. “Jacqueline Condrikes, you do realize that feathers look hot on you, right?”

We burst out laughing and walked the rest of the way to the ice cream stand hand in hand. The day after I graduated, I showed off a pretty sapphire ring to my friends.

Roark and I will celebrate our ten-year anniversary this year. I still meet with the old gang every once and a while, though it comes less often now that we live farther apart. Professor Fielding’s never revealed our secret to anybody, as far as we know, and now teaches genetics at the lab Ethan volunteered at. All our lives have been relatively uneventful, all things considered.

I once thought that I would never be happy with my newfound powers. I’m glad I was wrong.

The author's comments:

I drew much of the inspiration for the material in this story from the TV shows Charmed and H2O, and the climax from the Winter Finale of the second season of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I began this story before I gained an account on TeenInk, so I hope you enjoy!

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