I felt like I was drowning in a vat of tar, falling beneath the waves of a choking black sea. Grandma Higgins’ aura came washing over me, hitting me in repeated waves and pushing me down deeper into the blackness. I couldn’t do anything against it.
I was going to die.
The realization hit me like a bucket of cold water poured down my spine, like when Tommy snuck up behind me once during a test and dropped an ice cube down the back of my shirt. Somehow, that sudden fact, so cold and hard, galvanized me into action.
I pushed back wildly, desperately, against that black aura that wrapped around me. I opened my mouth in a silent scream, pushing, tuning my very thoughts into a focused blade to try and push through that suffocating blackness.
And then, just as I felt myself fading for what I knew would be the last time, the darkness recoiled from me.
“What? No!” Grandma Higgins gasped out. The words barely registered to me; I knew that I’d only bought myself a second of relief, that the crushing force would be back on me in a second.
I couldn’t lose this momentum.
I still wasn’t sure exactly what I’d done, how I forced that darkness back, but I tried my best to replicate it. I focused my mind on a single point, a cutting edge, and slashed out with it against the blackness. Once again, my efforts were rewarded. The blackness again pulled back, and I almost imagined that I could hear it shrieking.
Again! Again! Knowing that I truly fought for my life, I pushed out at the aura. I just needed to claw my way free, needed to escape. If I lost focus for a single second, thought about pain, agony, whatever might await me, I knew that I’d fail.
Slash. Focus. Burn away at the never-ending blackness that keeps reaching for me. Time seemed to stretch on forever…
…and then suddenly, like a rubber band snapping, I was back. I once again had control of my limbs, felt my body resting against the soft fabric of the couch behind me. I tried to move, and I finally felt my muscles respond.
Grandma Higgins still stood in front of me, her mouth dropped open in shock. “You can’t,” she whispered, her eyes wide. “It’s not possible for you to be so strong, to resist. You should be dead!”
Her hand came up, reaching out towards me, but I scrambled back and away. I fell over the back of the couch, popping up on both my hands and legs like an animal as I tried to keep my distance from her.
“Keep back!” I shouted. “Stay away! You…” I paused, still almost unable to believe the truth. “You tried to kill me!”
“It’s for your own good!” she shouted back, as if this made any kind of sense. “You don’t want this! It’s a curse!”
“It’s my life!” My eyes shot around the room. We didn’t have any guns – and besides, what could I do? Shoot my own grandmother?
No. I needed to get away. I took a deep breath, gathering my still-compromised strength – and then sprinted past her, towards the front door.
She reached out for me, with both her hands and that black aura that still hung around her like a dreadful halo. I could see ragged parts of it, where my mental attacks had somehow managed to cut it, but it still stretched out towards me. I ducked aside, grasped the handle of the front door.
The chill air of the outdoors hit me as I plunged out, into the darkness. I heard my own breath coming raggedly in my chest as I panted, looking around the cozy streets of suburbia. What do I do? Where do I go? How do I explain to anyone that my sweet, kind old grandmother is pure evil, and that she tried to kill me using an aura that floats around her?
I didn’t have answers to those questions, but I knew that I needed to get away.
My parents weren’t around; they’d already left, and they wouldn’t get back into town until tomorrow night. I looked around outside, tried to figure out where to go. I sprinted down half a block, ducking around behind a fence in case Grandma Higgins came out after me.
Okay, James. Deep breaths. Calm down. Try to think. What would an action hero do in a situation like this?
First, I figured, he’d take inventory. What did I have in my pockets?
Not much, it turned out. I had my wallet, with my ID and twelve dollars in cash, plus a credit card that my parents gave me for emergencies and warned me not to use unless the situation was dire. I had my cell phone, with eighty percent charge left. I had my house key, slipped in my back pocket. And I had a pack of gum, with three pieces left in it.
I needed help. And unfortunately, I could only think of one person nearby that might be able to help me.
Although I really, really didn’t want to have to go to her and try to explain any of this.
I popped one of the pieces of gum into my mouth, chewed, hoped that the taste would help calm me down. It helped, a little. I kept on chewing as I hopped over the fence, cut across several backyards and made my way over to my destination.
I reached the front door, took a deep breath, let it out slowly. The house where I stood now wasn’t particularly welcoming. The grass was long and uncut, the paint was peeling off the siding, and the place had a general feeling of neglect. I’d seen her coming to school a little more infrequently as of late, and knew that things weren’t great at home.
But I didn’t have any other options. She was the only one who was within walking distance, who might – just might – be willing to believe me.
I pushed the doorbell, waited, frowned as I realized that I hadn’t heard anything from inside. So instead, I knocked on the door. After a minute, I heard footsteps on the other side – and saw the greasy gray glow of an approaching aura.
“Hi, Mr. Cayman,” I said with as much politeness as I could summon to the greasy, unshaven man who opened the door. “Is Kara home? It’s James, from school.”