By Sol Dente, TIWP Student
My eyes were glued to the clock, watching the second hand tick, tick, tick by as it got closer and closer to the twelve o’ clock mark. Ten, nine, my hands fisted themselves in my navy sweatshirt in a desperate attempt to curb my anxiety. Six, five, my mouth was dry in anticipation and I could almost feel the tension building in the air. Three, two, one… The second hand ticked to a stop and I could hear the main bell in the city toll to mark the beginning of a new day. I was now officially sixteen, ready to join the Academy, and ready to receive my superpower.
“Oh, oh, what’d you get?! What’d you get!?” Willie yanked hard on my arm, his gap-toothed smile split across his face in his excitement.
“I don’t know, give me a second to figure it out.” I de-tangled myself from my younger brother and held my hands out in front of me, waiting for some spark or realization or ignition to spring forth.
“Oh hey Ami’s sixteen! What’d you get for your power?” Mina swung down the stairs, brown hair tumbling into her face as she did.
“I’d know if you guys gave me a second to figure it out,” I snapped back, turning away from my older sister to focus on my hands again. I expected at least something, maybe lighting, electrokinesis would be fun, or invisibility, or telepathy, or……
“Is something supposed to be happening?”
“Willie!” I hissed “I’m trying to concentrate”
“But Mina got her’s right away. Why is yours talking so long?”
I shot an annoyed glance at my brother and looked back at my hands again. They just looked like hands, nothing special or important about them, no fire or water or plasma or anything. Mina had unlocked her hydrokinesis only a few seconds after she turned sixteen; most of my friends had too. But I still had nothing.
“Is something wrong?” Mina asked, making her way across the bright tile to stand next to me, concern shining brightly in her eyes.
“Everything’s fine. It’ll show up soon,” I gritted out, clenching my hands tightly and searching deep inside me for the feeling I was waiting for, for the spark catching or the latch closing or the match burning, but nothing came. A sense of dread washed over me, a telltale ache burning in my throat as my vision began to swim with tears.
“Nothing?” Mina asked, not even trying to hide the worry in her voice.
“Nothing,” I confirmed, trying hard to keep the sobs from spilling over into my mouth.
Mina rubbed my back comfortably, leaning into my side and running her fingers through my hair softly.
“Don’t worry. You’ll get it eventually.”
We both knew that was a lie.
“Ami!” Raya slammed into me, arms wrapped around my shoulders, hugging me close to her chest. “How was it? What did you get?”
I hugged my girlfriend back, burying my face in her shoulder and trying to come up with a way to break the news to her, that after two days my power hadn’t shown up.
“Hey Ray,” I said, my voice muffled by her jacket. “I actually need to talk to you about that.”
Raya pulled back, looking up at me with concern in her eyes. “Why? Is something wrong?”
“Yeah. I… I didn’t get an ability.” The words came tumbling out of my mouth before I could second guess myself, hoping to whatever god was out there that I hadn’t made a fatal mistake.
Surprise, then confusion, flashed across Raya’s face, her mouth falling open in an almost comedic fashion and her eyes widening.
“What? How? That’s never been recorded ever, no one’s ever just had no ability, that has to be impossible, let my get my notebook.” Raya slung her backpack off her shoulders and began to rifle through it, hands flying over neatly organized binders, pencil bags, and lined paper before settling on the purple notebook tucked in the back pocket.
“It’s possible, Ray,” I said softly. “I’m sorry, I know you probably don’t want to date me now that I don’t have an ability, but—”
“Are you kidding!” Raya shot to her feet. “Of course I still want to date you! I didn’t fall in love with you for your power. I fell in love with you because you are an amazing person! And besides, I’m not exactly one to judge powers, I ended up with perfect recall!”
Relief flooded my system. I knew logically that Raya wouldn’t dump me over something as dumb as my ability but my social anxiety didn’t like listening to logic much.
“Okay good,” I breathed out. “Because I don’t want to lose you”
Raya got to her feet and gave me a soft smile, the kind that still flipped my heart after two years of dating, and looked to the clock, the second hand only a few ticks away from the start of class.
“I don’t want to lose you either. And I wish I could comfort you more, but I’ve got Chem in approximately five seconds and Mrs. Ossden is going to kill me if I’m late. See you later babe!” Raya called, already halfway down the hall.
“See you later!” I called back, heading in the opposite direction for my first class of the day.
“Alright, alright, settle down.”
The chatter of my English 3 class faded into silence as Mr. Thourenbrow stood from his desk and walked to the front of the classroom with his hands folded over his gray tweed vest.
“Today we will be starting a special unit on literary analysis, this time focusing on….” I tuned my English teacher out and blew my hair out my eyes in annoyance. It seemed like literary analysis was all we did in this damn class anyways, why would we need a special unit?
“But first, it has come to my attention that Amethyst’s sixteenth birthday was two days ago. Would they like to stand and show their new ability to the class?”
Surprise, then pure panic seized through me. I should have known this would happen. Mr. Thourenbrow always made sure to ask students what ability they got when they turned sixteen, but somehow I’d completely forgotten and now I had to tell my entire class that I hadn’t gained a power.
“Uh, do I have too?” I asked carefully, hoping that his answer would be a ‘no’ but I was not that lucky.
“What’s the harm?” was Mr. Thourenbrow’s response. “We’re all interested.”
“Come on Ami!” Julie called from across the room. “Just tell us!”
I ducked my head and forced myself to keep my voice from shaking as I opened my mouth.
“I don’t have one.”
You could hear a pin drop. Everyone in the class, including Mr. Thourenbrow, looked shocked beyond belief. Raya had been right about the fact that there had never been any person without a power before; it was unheard of.
For a long time, nobody said anything. Each passing second felt like a million years until Mr. Thourenbrow composed himself and cleared his throat.
“Erm, well, that’s certainly, um, interesting, thank you Amethyst.”
“Of course the queer one is broken,” Julie scoffed, the gaggle of friends around her giggling loudly at the jeer.
Hurt ripped through me and I turned away from my laughing classmates, trying to focus on the clouds outside my window instead of the pain tearing at my heart.
“Ami you okay?” Mina peeked her head around my door, her car keys jingling on her belt. “The selection for the Academy is in an hour.”
I turned around, burying my face in my tear-stained pillow. The Academy was useless now, my grades would get me pretty high up but the main running was based on your power and since I had none, well, that wasn’t going to end well.
“I don’t wanna go,” I mumbled into the soft pillow.
“Is this because of your power? Ami don’t worry, your grades are great!” Mina was trying to comfort me, but she and I could hear the hollowness in her voice.
“I don’t wanna.”
“We’re going to see mom for the first time in four months; she’s taken off time to see your ceremony. Please go, for her.”
I thought of my mother and a pang shot through me. I missed mom more than I liked to admit. She was always working double shifts across the city and had started sleeping over at the hospital instead of going home. I hadn’t seen her for so long, and I wanted to hear her voice, to feel her arms around me, telling me that everything was going to be okay.
“Fine,” I grumbled. “Gimme ten minutes”
The car jerked to a stop and Mina took her foot off the petal, undoing her seatbelt and opening the car door while I did the same. We’d parked in side alley a couple blocks from the square where the admissions were being announced to avoid traffic, but we would have to walk through some of the more unsavory streets of the city.
“Keep your guard up,” Mina instructed. I straightened my back and tried to look confident, even though anxiety was eating up my insides. Forget butterflies, I had a flock of birds in my stomach.
My sister looked both ways for criminals or mobsters before walking towards the opening of the dingy alley. I followed close behind with my hands tucked into my sweater.
As we rounded the corner I could begin to hear and see the crowd that had gathered for the Admissions, held every December 23rd to mark the new wave of arrivals to the Academy. In years before this, I had watched the crowd with awe and excitement, desperately waiting for my own turn. Now all that joy had turned to shame and I ducked my head with all the emotion threatening the spill over.
“Excuse me, excuse me, any spare change?”
A homeless man wandered into the street, wrapped in baggy clothes and shivering in the frosty air. In his hand he held a jar filled with a few pennies, shaking it desperately. For a second, I imagined what it would be like to be in his shoes, starving and cold, wondering where I’d find my next meal.
“Come on Ami, this way,” Mina steered me away from the man, sheltering me with her arm.
“But I want to help him!” I protested.
“He’s probably just an addict,” Mina said, hurrying me along towards the bustling square. I stole one last look back at the man, an unknown feeling swirling in my chest.
“You ready?” Raya leaned into my arm, lacing my fingers with her own, Mina pressed into my other side.
“Yeah. I think,” I said softly. Better to just get it over with than wait endlessly.
“Now, announcing the top picks for the Academy,” the loudspeaker blared. Raya squeezed my hand and smiled at me, but I was too worked up to smile back.
The giant screens lining the building around the square changed to a ranking, showing the twelve people selected for the top class.
“The first one selected for our advanced course is……” a profile appeared on screen showing a blank picture and a blank name. A drumroll sounded from the speakers and tensions shot to an all time high during the few precious seconds until the reveal ticked by.
Blood pounded in my ears, Raya’s screams and Mina’s words fuzzy in the background as I tried to piece together how this had happened. It shouldn’t be possible, my grades were good, sure, but I had no power, no ability to set me apart from the rest. Only the strongest, rarest powers got the top slot, someone must have made a mistake.
“W… What? How?”
I barely registered my own voice as I was shoved forward through the crowd towards the center of the square. Someone’s arms shoved me onto the stage and a man with a microphone ran over to me.
“Amyest Barker, how do you feel about getting the top spot?”
“Uh, I, there must have been a mistake, I don’t have a power, something got messed up.”
“Are you sure? It says there’s a power up there”
In my shock, I somehow managed to tilt my head to see the big screen above me, eyes focusing on the one white word beneath my name.