Chapter 1: Good Morning
Warm blankets surrounded the sleeping form. Screams came from the room next door, jarring the boy from his restful sleep. Austin slowly sat up as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. Another scream of terror. He sighed, stood up, and walked to the door. Darkness covered the hallway as he felt for the light switch. His fingers found it and he flipped it, bathing the area around him in the light. A choking cry came from the bedroom again
“Kazzy, wait, I’m coming,” he called as quietly as possible. Mom would already be at work but it was not time for the other four kids to be up. The crying grew softer at the sound of his voice.
Austin turned the doorknob and stepped inside, shutting the light in the hallway off and the one in the bedroom on. He walked over to the crib and lifted the red-faced infant into his arms. A smile crept onto its face as he held it close, rocking it back and forth.
“Mom’s already gone so you’re stuck with me,” he whispered to the girl. A soft coo came from her as she closed her eyes. “You know she has to work a lot since Dad disappeared.”
A few minutes later and the baby was back asleep. He thought about placing her back in the crib but then looked at the clock. He was supposed to be getting up in five minutes anyway. Instead of going back to bed, he went to the bathroom and got in the shower.
As Austin stepped out, his eyes landed on the family picture hanging next to the mirror. He looked at his dad, arms around his mom and a smile on his face, and then looked at himself in the mirror.
“Hey Dad,” he started to talk to the picture. “I miss you. If you were here, mom wouldn’t have to work so hard to support all of us. And you’d be the man of the house, not me. I’m too young for this anyway.”
He started to brush his teeth but the thoughts continued in his head. Dad had disappeared close to a year ago and Mom had to work like crazy to support them. She had to pay the rent, pay the car bills, taxes, and get out of the debt that Dad had left them in. She was working from five in the morning to ten in the evening, working other people’s shifts and overtime whenever possible.
The boy rinsed the sink out and pulled a shirt over his head. “I guess what I’m trying to say is, we miss you Dad.”
Austin turned and walked out of the bathroom to the kitchen where he quickly made breakfast for himself and the others. Footsteps on the stairs moments later told him they were up and hungry. Another fit of screaming from the baby’s room reminded him that Kazlynne still needed to be fed.
Taking the stairs two at a time, he reached the baby’s room and hurried back downstairs with the sobbing child. Sitting her in the highchair, he reached high up into one of the cupboards and pulled out a jar of baby food.
“Here ya go, it’s your favorite,” he told the baby as he unscrewed the lid. “Mashed potatoes and carrots.”
“That sounds disgusting,” a little boy commented as he walked by, still in his pajamas.
“DJ, get out of your pajamas and into your school clothes now. You know Mom doesn’t like it when you wait till last minute to change,” he commanded him.
“Who are you? My dad?” the nine-year-old did not realize how much that statement hurt him.
“No, but I’m going the try the best that I can until he gets back. Now go change!”
Austin didn’t have time to think about the statement because as DJ was going back up to change, a little girl came running down the stairs.
“Hey, do you need any help with food?” the little girl was seven and always trying her best to help him out.
“Nope. It’s all ready for you to eat,” he told her. He dipped the spoon into the baby food jar and fed a little bit of it to the baby.
"Okay, thanks,” she grabbed one of the cereal bowls off the counter and carefully carried it over to the table. Sliding into the seat next to him, she looked at him.
“Does it already have milk in it?” she asked him. Her round brown eyes were so cute that they made him smile.
“Yes, Rox, there’s milk in it.”
“I want to pour my own milk,” DJ came sauntering back down the stairs.
“That’s not necessary,” he told him.
“I want more milk,” he argued.
The boy rolled his eyes as DJ opened the fridge and grabbed the milk container. As he went to pour it, another little boy dashed through, knocking his elbow.
“ROME!” Austin yelled. “No running in the house!”
“He made me spill the milk,” DJ sobbed.
The container was tipped on its side, milk spilling out everywhere in a steady stream. It cascaded down the front of the cabinets and onto the floor. A little girl, about five, ran through trying to catch her twin brother. She slipped in the milk and landed on the floor with a thump. She started to cry.
“Venice, if you hadn’t of been running, you wouldn’t have slipped,” DJ lectured her.
“D, I’ve got this. Go eat your cereal and get ready for school.”
“Go get ready for school,” he mocked as he walked away.
Half an hour later all the little kids were on the school bus except for Kazzy, who went to school with him. He jogged up the street at a steady pace. If he kept it up he’d be there within a few minutes.
“Isn’t my life just so wonderful?” he laughed to Kazzy as they waited for the light.
This started as a creative writing assignment but then, after few minutes of shower thoughts, the idea blossom and grow in my head. And you know me, once I get a book idea in my head, I have to write it. I will continue on Hybrid and will put out at least one chapter a week of both books!
Chapter 2: School and the Principal’s Office
Austin arrived at the school a few minutes before the bell rang. With Kazzy strapped to his back, he jogged for homeroom as the bell rang. He slid into his seat, switching Kazzy from his back to his chest. He made it through homeroom but then he had history and Mr. Martinez did not like Kazzy one bit.
He slid into his seat and sighed. Made it in time.
“You look tired, are you okay?” the girl next to him asked. She leaned over to look at the baby in his arms. “How’s the little Kazzy?” she played with her tiny hands and smiled. "Too cute!"
" Yeah, " he answered. “DJ was being terrible this morning, Rome and Venice were causing trouble, and like usual, Mom was already at work.”
“At least you only have to deal with Kazzy now,” Demetria shrugged. Almost on cue, Kazzy started to cry.
“Shhh,” she tried to soothe her. “Sorry, Austin.”
“She’ll settle down evetually,” he waved it off. “But, since you made her cry, you can hold her.”
Demmy laughed and reached over for her. “Gladly!” she cradled her in her arm and wrapped a blanket Austin handed her around the baby. Kazzy stopped crying eventually.
Mr. Martinez began to talk. “Open you books to page 374. Today we will finish talking about the French and Indian War.” He droned on and on and Austin stopped listening when he said the page number.
He pulled a notebook out of his backpack and grabbed a pencil. He opened the notebook up to the second to last page and began to draw. Austin was never a good drawer but the picture he drew was magnificent. In the middle was a dot and spreading out from it like spokes of a wheel where tiny veins. Even tiny viens branched off of them, going in every other diretion. He went back and adding a little bit of shading and texture, making it seem to pop off the page.
He didn’t know what he was drawing or why but the image just poured out of his pencil and onto the page. The next thing he knew the bell was ringing and it was time for the next class.
He took Kazzy from Demmy and continued on with the rest of his day without any problems. It was only went he exited the school that they started.
Ausstin zipped his coat up around himself and Kazzy as he jogged over to the middle school. He leaned up against the chainlinked fence waiting for his younger siblings to be let out. Roxanne was pushing younger kids on the swings, Rome and Venice were swinging, and DJ was yelling at a kid. He brought his arm back and within a flash, he let it loose, hiting the other kid in the eye.
“DJ! Stop!” Austin yelled but way too late.
He quickly climbed over the fence, careful not to knick Kazzy on it, and jogged towards him. Roxanne stopped pushing the kids, and Rome and Venice stopped pumping their legs on the swings.
“Donald Junior!” one of the teachers scolded, arriving on the scene before Austin did. “Go to the principal’s office, now!”
Austin stopped when he heard that. His shoulders sagged and he sighed. DJ glared at the teacher and then the boy on the ground in turn and then headed for the open gate. He followed DJ out of and motioned for the his siblings to follow him. Roxanne waved goodbye and Rome and Venice both jumped off the swings and ran to catch up. A teacher joined them.
No one said anything as they walked through the virtually empty hallways of the school. The teacher opened the door and ushered DJ and Austin in. The others sat outside on the bench, waiting for it all to be over.
“Oh, hello, Mrs. Smith,” Principal Julie looked up. “And DJ and Austin. What can I help you with?”
“I didn’t do anything bad!” DJ blurted. Austin clamped a hand on his shoulder and squeezed, signaling for him to shut up.
“Punching someone in the eye is very bad,” Mrs. Smith argued. She looked at the principal. “Mrs. Martinez wanted me to make sure you do something about it this time.”
So that teacher is Mr. Martinez’s wife, huh? No wonder she hates DJ so much. He follows right in my footsteps. Austin thought.
“I see,” Julie tucked her pen behind her ear. “You may go back to your class, thank you.”
Mrs. Martinez nodded and turned and left but not without glaring at DJ one more time. Austin gritted his teeth. He hated that whole family.
“Did you punch somebody again, Donald?” Julie said a tinge of tiredness in her voice.
“Yes, ma’am, I did,” It was almost as if he was proud of it. Austin sat down next to him.
“And why did you do it?” she pressed.
“He was being a jerk,” he crossed his arms.
“You half to be nice to people, Donald,” she sighed.
“What do you want me to do? Give him handshake and hug and be like, ‘It’s okay, buddy! It doesn’t matter that you’re spreading rumors around school, we’re still friends!’” he said sarcastically. Austin was done trying to get him to stop. “There’s worse I could have done to him. I could have dumbed water on his pants and held him on the metal slide till he froze to it. I could have pushed him in the way of the swings or stuck him under the merry-go-round and then turn it super fast. Punching him in the eye is nothing compared to what I could have done.”
That is not helping anything, DJ. Just shut up please before they expell you. Austin thought so hard he was almost certain he’d sent the message to him mentally.
“Donald, while punching someone in the face probably is the least you could do to him, it doesn’t make it okay,” Julie pointed out. “You’re gonna have after school detention
for one week.”
DJ’s jaw clenched. He didn’t say anything.
“Now, you can leave, I need to talk to Austin,” she nodded at the door and DJ happily got up and left, swagging a little as he left. He’d done worse before.
“I didn’t do anything,” Austin immediatly said.
“No, you haven’t,” Julie folded her hands and set them on the desk. “But the school board has a done and made a lot of sacrafices for your family. Over at the highschool, they’re letting you bring Kazlynne to school, and over here, we’ve put up with a lot of stunts from your younger brother.”
They said this everytime something happened. Everything always got blamed on his home situation.
“He needs to get his act together or it’s only going to get worse,” Julie continued. “Please promise me you’ll do something about it.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he answered politely.
“Have a good rest of the day, Austin,” she smiled. “And be safe, okay?”
Stepping outside, he headed for the exit. The others followed him and soon they were on the way home. They stopped to pick some things up from the store along the way but they made decent time.
The moment Austin stepped inside the door, his phone rang. It was Demmy.
“Hey!” he answered.
“Hey, um, Dad has a meeting at the office so I was just gonna call and see if it’d be okay for me to drop by while he’s gone.” she said, cutting straight to the point.
“Yeah, no problem!” he said. “When ya gonna be here?”
“Dad can drop me off on the way,” she told him.
“Okay, see ya then,” he ended the call. DJ and the others were already upstairs working on homework so he settled down at the kitchen table and pulled out his notebooks. The first notebook was history. He opened it up to look at his notes and then remembered he didn’t take any because he’d been drawing. He flipped to the page he drew on and looked at it. Slowly, he turned back to the homework at hand and set to work but he kept a pencil on the drawing so he could quickly turn to look at it.
A hour later, the doorbell rang. He stood up and walked to the door. Opening it, he saw Demmy standing there, her backpack hung over her right arm.
“Hey,” she said.
He opened the door and let her in. She’d been to his house many times seeing they grew up together and she came over frequently to watch the kids or help out.
She dropped her bag on the kitchen table and leaned over to look at his homework.
“You’re still on history?” she asked with a little laugh.
“Yeah, I wasn’t really listening and I didn’t make any notes,” he admitted, shutting and locking the front door. “I got to work on dinner, ya hungry?”
“Yeah, sure,” she nodded. She sat down in the seat and flipped through the notebook looking at the occasionaly doodle here and there. Seeing the pencil in the back of the notebook, she flipped to the page it was on.
“What’s this?” she asked, pointing to the sketch. “It’s good.”
“Ah, thanks,” he walked over next to her. “I don’t exactly know what it is but it looks like something a superheroe\ would have you know, the thing that grants them their powers sorta deal.”
“I think the villian would have it actually. It just looks too -- evil for a superhero,” she said.
He took a step back and began to think. “Yeah, maybe.”
“Let’s say that the person that has this power-giving thing is a villian but maybe they started out as a superhero but it was just too boring,” she suggest.
He smirked. “What?”
“Well, wouldn’t you get fed up with saving things all the time and never getting to smash a building or crush a bus? I know I would,” she stood up and started to clear the table off. She had the table set before he said anything.
“Or maybe he was bad from the beginning,” he added.
“I don’t think everybody starts out bad,” she said. “I think they deteriorate to that point.”
Austin glanced at the sketch one more time before she shut the notebook and set it off to the side.
His insides turned and he felt like he was going to puke. He turned back to the boiling water on the stove and glenched his teeth.
“Get a grip, Austin,” he glenched the edge of the counter.
The image of the sketch flashed into his mind. There was something about it that made him feel uneasy. He wished he hadn’t have drawn it.
Chapter 3: Green Lights
Austin scooped up the last of the noodles and sat down in his place at the table. He took a few bites -- it was already cold. Placing the bowl in the microwave, he reheated it for a minute. As he waited for it to be done he looked at his younger siblings who were already done eating. He ran a hand through his red hair and sighed.
“This is hard,” he muttered. Demmy looked at him with concern and started to gather up the empty bowls.
“I made cookies yesterday and saved some for you guys,” she said as she placed the bowls in the sink. “Roxanne, can you get them for me? They’re in my bag.”
“Yeah,” Roxy answered, slipping out of her seat. At the mention of cookies, the others stayed put in their seats. She sat the container down on the table and pried the lid off and handed two cookies to each person. “Here ya go!”
“Thanks, Dem,” They all said.
“Save some for Austin, okay?” Demmy laughed. She turned to Austin as she washed the bowls. “You look tired.”
“DJ got sent to the office today,” he removed his bowl from the microwave and started to eat. Between bites he filled her in. “Punched a kid in the eye for heaven’s knows why and the principal was going on about how she knew our home life was helping the matter. Just makes me so mad.”
“They deal with a lot of kids who act out because of their home life but you’re not like that,” she said. She sat the clean bowls on the counter and turned the water off. “You might fall asleep every now and again in a class or get in an argument here and there but you’re not doing it out of spite.”
He laughed. “Nah, I don’t think so.”
After a few minutes of talking while they cleaned up, they were done. The pot was cleaned, the dishes were dried and put away, and everything was neat and tidy.
“You want a cookie?” Demmy held up the container. “There’s only four left.”
“They ate a lot of them,” he said. He reached inside and grabbed two. “You can have the rest.”
“Do you need help with your homework still?” she asked, pulling her notebooks and pens out of her notebook.
“Yeah, um, let me go check on the kids, they’re upstairs and it’s unusually quiet,” he walked to the stairs and was about to step up onto the first stare when he noticed something. Next to him was a window that looked down on the alleyway below them. Normally, the alleyway was dark and quiet with an occasional stray cat here and there but tonight it was illuminated with a dull green.
If it had been any other night, any other person, any other thoughts running through his head, he would have left it alone but something about the eerie glow called him. His hand dropped off the banister and he turned and walked for the door. He opened it and stepped out into the chilly air. He descended the stairs and his walk turned into a jog. He ran for the alleyway. His brain was telling him to stop but his legs kept moving forward.
His body finally stopped moving but it wasn’t until he found the source of the light -- a glowing bricked off door in the side of a building. For a moment he was relieved that he had control over his body again but it didn’t last long. His feet carried him forward once more, closer to the wall, and his arm reached out, fingers brushing up against it.
The green light instantly jumped at his fingers, dashing up his arm and to the spot on his chest right over his heart. He screamed, the noise piercing the night. He could hear someone’s footsteps pounding down the alley behind him -- Demmy.
“What happened?” she looked at him, the wall, and then back at him, eyes wide. He couldn’t withdraw his arm, it wouldn’t obey.
“I don’t know,” he managed.
“What is happening!” she screamed.
Little strands of green erupted from the wall, twisting up his arm. They followed the same path as the light. The moment they found home, they turned a blinding neon green.
She couldn’t speak. For the first time in her life, she was frozen in place, eyes wide, and heart racing. She wanted to pull him away, to stop whatever was happening, but it was if the light had paused time, nothing moving but itself.
And then she could move. She could breathe again. Austin could move now and he instantly turned around and stared straight in her eyes. His eyes glowed a golden green, power surged throughout his whole body. The green know laced around every inch of visible body and began to glow. She could see rings of gold flowing through them making him seem like a monster.
“Run,” it was Austin’s voice. His eyes were pleading with her. “Please.”
She didn’t argue but rather turned and ran as fast as she could back into the house. She slammed the door behind her and locked it. She slid down the door, chest heaving with panic. She looked at the window, the green light glowing brighter and brighter.
Slowly, she stood up and took a tentative step towards the window. Her fingers gripped the windowsill, her whole body shaking. Down below she sat Austin. He barely looked human any more. The veins on his body turned grey and smokey like, twisting around him more and more until she couldn’t see him. He -- rather it-- grew bigger and bigger, growing taller and taller in size. Demmy’s heart stopped for a split second as its long boney fingers scrapped the window pane. She screamed, she couldn’t help it.
The creature froze when it heard her. It pulled itself up to its full height and looked through the window at her. Demmy couldn’t breath, her lungs were constricted. She felt like she was going to pass out. A smile crept over its face and it raised a finger and made a shushing gesture. And then it jumped. It jumped up high, grabbed a hold of the tops of the surrounding apartment building and pulled itself up. With one last leap it was airborne and disappeared from sight.
She held a hand over her mouth to keep from screaming or crying, maybe both. She looked down below her again and Austin was gone.
“It swallowed him up,” she gasped. Her mind was reeling. She couldn’t take it anymore. She sat down up against the wall and pulled both knees up to her chest. “What just happened?”
She tried to steady her breathing but she couldn’t. None of it seemed real.
Two minutes later she heard a soft knock on the door. At first, she didn’t know what to do but managed to stand up and look through the peephole. It was Austin and he was shivering in the cold night air.
Her hands moved without her brain telling them to do anything. She unlocked the door and opened it, taking a step back as she did so. She grabbed her notebooks and pens and stuffed them into her backpack, slung it over her shoulder, and looked at Austin as he stepped inside.
“What happened?” she choked out, a tear sliding down her face.
“I think I have superpowers,” he said, a little dazed. She could see faint traces of green on his arm, bringing back the terrible image of the monster.
“You turned into… into… a monster,” she sobbed. “I wouldn’t call that a superpower.”
She slid by him, out the door, and into the night, headed for home. Austin sighed and shut the door behind him and relocked it. He took the stairs two at a time.
“Time for bed,” he said as he walked into DJ’s room. He switched the light off and shut the door. He changed Kazzy into pajamas and laid her down in her crib. He turned the lights
off in Rome and Venice room who were already asleep. Everything felt wrong, like he was a stranger in his own house.
He stepped into the bathroom and shut the door before turning the lights on. He walked to the mirror and pulled his shirt off. He could feel slimy green veins on his skin and sure enough, they were there. He gasped. They were arranged in a pattern he was all too familiar with -- a pattern he had drawn himself.
Green veins spread out from the center like the spokes of a wheel. He ran a tentative finger over it.
“That’s impossible!” he muttered in awe.
He pulled his shirt back on and flipped the lights off, heading for his bedroom. He didn’t bother to change, just crawled into bed and pulled the blankets up, hoping that he’d wake up from what he hoped was a nightmare.
His eyes drifted shut as sleep claimed him but as he rested, the mark on his chest dug its way deeper into his skin. It was a part of him now.