An Excerpt from
The Girl in the Hourglass
by Drew Bittner
Another year, another blog entry, dear readers. I have to write an essay on the War for Mr. Samuels—600 words, can you believe it?—and then go to my weekly session. Mom’s offered to help, so I’m thinking about writing it from her point of view. I mean, who wouldn’t? She went through The Process as a teenager, became a superstar on the battlefield and for Victory Studios, and she even survived… unscathed! Having a figure from the history books sleeping a dozen yards away is pretty useful sometimes.
What else? Oh, they’re upping my meds again. Seems I’m growing a tolerance. Egad, I might actually be able to feel an emotion. Is that allowed? Not for me. :::dramatic sigh:::
Ah well. Off to the salt mines of high school. Miss Double-Red, out!
(See additional 15 comments…)
Kyrie slouched in the passenger seat, wrapped in sullen silence, as Susan pulled their sedan up to the curb. Her daughter was good at sullen and silence both. “Okay, you know the drill, kiddo,” the former superheroine Superhot said to her child. “Take your meds at lunch, report any upset to the counselor, keep your phone on you at all times.”
“Jawohl,” Kyrie muttered, eyes fixed out the window. She slumped in the passenger seat, eyes slightly glassy. Even that flicker of defiance from Kyrie was extreme, given how doped up she was.
Susan Maxwell sighed. She really tried not to resent her daughter’s attitude—the therapist had told her often enough that double reds acted out, especially once they entered the danger years—but it was damned hard. Damn you, Tom, did you have to die?
She smothered the thought as quickly as she could. It didn’t help to blame her dead husband; when he was out mowing the lawn four years ago, it surely didn’t cross his mind that he’d dissolve into bubbles, leaving behind nothing but Bermuda shorts, sandals, and an idling mower. Not to mention a grieving wife and a daughter who’d seen the whole thing.
As flameouts went, it was surprisingly gentle. She could at least be grateful for that, if not for the fact that Kyrie still had nightmares. their daughter had been on a daily regimen of tranquilizers and mood suppressors since that day; some nights, Susan needed help sleeping too. And if Kyrie was a bit of a zombie these days, at least she was alive. Too many double reds weren’t.
Susan hated drugging her child, stealing the fire and passion that made her Kyrie. She consoled herself with thinking she’d have hated burying her child even more. It was better that way, it had to be.
“I’ll see you back here at 2:45,” Susan said as Kyrie climbed out of the car. Once the door was shut, she waited, watching until Kyrie was at least most of the way to the door. Her therapist would say that she had become slightly obsessive, this need to watch her daughter as much as she could, as if she could prevent…
Susan stepped on the gas gently and drove off, putting distance between herself and the fears threatening to steal what life she had left.
~ * ~
“Yo, Ky, what up?”
Kyrie smiled slightly at hearing her friend Veronica’s exuberant good cheer. “Oh, the yoozh,” she said, dropping her pills onto the sidewalk and grinding them underfoot. “Better existing through chemistry, or so Mom thinks.”
“Yeah, I saw your post about ‘tolerance.’ They’re probably upping it because you haven’t been taking them for what, a year?”
Kyrie nodded. “Something like that. So how ’bout you? What’s new in V-world?”
“Essay for Super-Sam,” she said. “Six hundred words on the fall of Washington DC. Your mom was there, wasn’t she?”
Kyrie nodded. “Yeah, the whole American Arsenal team was there, fighting the ’Wocks. Mom’s talked about it once or twice. I think she saved some guys from Congress or maybe the White House. She’s supposed to go there in a week or two for the rededication ceremony.”
“I didn’t think the rebuilding was that far along.”
“They did some of the government buildings first, I heard, just to show America was back, rah-rah,” Kyrie said. “They won’t move the government out of Colorado Springs until more of the city is done, but that’ll take years. This is just for show.”
Veronica frowned. “Do you think your mom knows you’re not taking the meds anymore?”
Kyrie shook her head. “I stopped almost a year ago. If she knew—if she even had an idea—she would have kept me at home and force-fed them to me.” She bit her lip, then added, “She thinks I’m still the little girl who…” Kyrie broke off, not wanting to finish the thought. Even if she knew she was in control of her emotions, there were some tests not worth taking.
Veronica nodded and let it go. Best friends were good that way.
They made their way down the hall, jostled by kids older and younger, eyeballed by boys and talked about by girls. Kyrie and Veronica were two of a kind: both double reds. If any two girls in the school were soul mates, it was them. Their standing joke was that they should wear shirts decorated with the blood-red helix that represented double reds, if only to see everyone’s reaction. Sometimes Kyrie was able to enjoy things like that.
Kyrie stopped at her locker and stared. It was as if thinking of the symbol had triggered something. Someone had smeared two lines of red paint, twisting around each other, on her locker door. “Son of a bitch,” she muttered. She wanted to scream. She wanted to shout at the kids in the hallway, “You think this is funny? You think it’s a joke, waiting to see if I die? You jerks!”
She wanted to rage and explode…figuratively, anyway. She wanted to lose control, to make them really afraid instead of just nervous around her. She wanted them to feel a tiny bit of what she felt.
Every. Single. Day.
But she didn’t. She only sighed and felt a little depressed. If it wasn’t the mood suppressors, and it wasn’t, then it was just the weariness of repetition. She didn’t have that fight in her any more.
The kids in the hall still gave her lots of space.
“I’ll tell the principal,” Veronica said. “If it’s on my locker too, then he’ll have to do something.”
“It won’t be,” Kyrie said. “They like you.” She tried not to make it sound bitter, she really did. She mostly succeeded, and didn’t fool Veronica in the least.
Veronica didn’t say anything; they both knew it was true. Kyrie was the brooding, sullen, rebellious one, while Veronica had always been the charming, outgoing one. She would have been a cheerleader if not for her dangerously volatile genetics and was in the running for homecoming queen regardless.
“Come on, let’s go to homeroom,” Kyrie said. “It’s just going to be one of those days.”
She was beginning to wish she’d kept one of the pills. Maybe it was better to feel nothing than to feel like shit.
~ * ~
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High school is tough enough without being a ticking time bomb.
No…really. My name is Kyrie Maxwell and I lost the genetic lottery. My parents are Supers and it turns out they never should have had me.
I’m what they call a Double-Red. A child of two genetically modified individuals lacking a key combination of genes that would keep me stable.
They tell me the meds are to keep calm. What they mean is they keep me numb. Too much excitement and I, literally, could explode, so they make sure I feel nothing. I’ve been doped my entire life. Well…until I decided I wasn’t going to take it anymore.
You know what I say? What’s the point? If they aren’t going to let me live, why try so hard to keep me alive?
Wait…do you hear something ticking?