I see the world from rusted trains; with a name like mine, you can’t go everywhere. I don’t have a need for open roads, ‘cause all I own is on my back. There’s no coming home, no matter how much I miss him. Or them.
My name is Leah Lester. Fun name, right? Sounds kind of like a villain. That’s what almost the whole world thinks I am, and those that don’t would get hurt because of me. You see, I’m telekinetic, which essentially just means I can move things with my mind. If you’ve seen the Marvel movies, I’m like Wanda Maximoff. Or in X-Men, there’s Jean Grey. Did their stories end up happy? Maybe, maybe not. I’m still not sure about mine.
I was walking in Pike Place almost a year ago. You hear a lot of stuff there, not all the best. Conversations and conspiracies are the things that I find myself listening into, even if they’re nothing. But when I passed by the lavender booth, there were two men whom I had never seen before. They weren’t even the kind that was usually found there. One had bizarre round glasses that made his nose protrude like a beak. The other was dressed like a biker, only he had this scientific look to him that made me just a bit unsettled. Needless to say, these were not the company I wanted, and I was just about to pass them. But fate has its ways, and I was not destined to live normally.
I turned, confused.
“Yes, you, princess.” The voice came ever so slowly and softly. Shivers ran up and down my spine. But I plastered on a smile, trying hard to recollect what I had learned in self-defense class a million years ago. So I walked forward, smiling, angling my elbows out, and preparing myself for a hopefully very painful blow. “Yes?” I asked in my sweetest voice.
“Do you want a job?”
I squinted my eyes and was ready to run when the biker-scientist thrust a cloth under my nose and whispered something to the other man in another language. The world spun, and floating… floating… sweet black abyss…
I don’t really want to think about it; brings back so much pain that I would rather just forget. “No past or future here,” I remind myself aloud as I step into an old, rusted train. This is where I most often return to, an abandoned train yard filled with lonely machines whose wheels have long since ceased to turn. My hands have flecks of chipped paint and rust on them from gripping the door. All my life is wrapped up in today, and I always know I won’t be back.
I woke up on a table, tubes stuck in my arms. The room was all cold metal, blinking lights on panels here and there. Purple fluid was entering my body through a tube, and widening my eyes, I pulled.
I was trapped, tied to this hospital bed, with who knows what being poured into my body. All I knew was that the pain was unbearable. My head felt tight and swollen, but thanks to a small mirror on one of the machines, I could see nothing out of the ordinary.
After what seemed like hours of misery, a woman with a lab jacket and a strict face came in, clicking and typing without any more than an occasional glance at me. Thoughts of my family swirled. My sister Julia and her children, all my nieces and nephews laughing and crying out, “Auntie Leah! Auntie Leah!” My mom and dad living in retirement on the lake. My friends at college were probably wondering why I wasn’t at the flower booth to meet them. And Chris… He would worry.
Suddenly I began to panic. I lifted my head up as far as I could and ran my eyes over my left hand. A silver band adorned the ring finger still, and I lay back, out of breath and feeling the repercussions of that simple motion. I still had it, though. My promise to Chris.
The lady began to examine me closely. I shifted uncomfortably. Her face was stone cold and so completely indifferent it made me briefly wonder if she was a robot. I mean, honestly, there was a robot-like machine just inches from my face, so in my mind that wasn’t such a stretch.
The woman held out her forearm and tapped something on her wrist, and a very faint expression of satisfaction made its way to her face. What she had done must have called someone, for only a few minutes later the man with the small round glasses came through the sliding metal door and spoke to the woman in what sounded like German. German?!
I hoped with all my heart I was not in Germany. Not that that would be realistic or anything, but everything felt so fuzzy and shiny and tight that I wasn’t really sure of anything. Maybe it was all a bad dream and my head just hurt because of dehydration? But when I was wheeled out to a metal box with a glowing thing, I realized that, strange as it was, it was real.
The glowing thing was put under what looked like some sort of radiation pressure. The dull green light from it pulsed. My head began to throb and my hands twitched. My brain stung and I was drowsily aware that my hands were wringing. Pain… too much… My mouth opened wide and I screamed. Tears of torture streamed down my face and through blurry vision I could see the woman in the lab coat and the man with the glasses grinning widely. Whatever they had done, it had worked and they were pleased.
It was weeks before I was let out. Only bits of information was I allowed to know. Like the fact that I was being kept in Romania by German scientists. Or that I could move things with my mind. Green energy swirled around my hands when I practiced, and every time I crushed a block or some other random object they gave me, I thought of home and family and Chris, and my hate for these people increased. I was determined to see them fall. But my chance vanished before I could make a decision.
I shiver a bit, the wind picking up a little. I swing my backpack off my shoulder and unzip it, digging out a rain jacket. I set it beside and crawl to the corner, leaning against the cold rusted wall. Stray raindrops spill in through the crack of the open door. My head is on the wall, and I cross my arms and close my eyes, hoping to get a little rest.
When I was released, the scientists seemed to just want to observe how I would now live. No trackers or spys--I think--but they must have wanted me to mess up and do something horrible. So I hid my abilities and went home. Caught a flight back to Tacoma and saw my family again. Chris and I decided the wedding date would be bumped up to the following weekend. But so much could happen in a week. Too much.
My days were filled with wedding preparations and time with Chris, my sister, and my parents, but not once could I rise in the morning without looking at my hands, horrified of my capability. It was like a movie. Only the heroes in those movies usually had to lose something before the end. So I waited to find out what I would lose.
Two days before the wedding I was in Pike Place again to discuss the bouquet with the florist there. Oh, I had thought of the strange circumstance that those Germans would be there again. I had hoped it was wishful thinking. One look at them and all the nightmares came back. All the pain in my head, the isolation, the lies that had festered in my mind during those weeks I was with them. Green energy swarmed around my wrists and in a window reflection I caught sight of my glowing green eyes. I sent a blast of energy towards them and watched as they were completely surrounded with this raw, almost uncontrolled power. I flicked my wrists and threw them against a building, expecting for the impact to maybe break a few bones. I was wrong.
I remember the brick wall crumbling from the impact. Chunks of brick and mortar hit several people, and before I knew it people were scrambling away from me, hiding behind tables and walls, and catching the whole thing on video.
I ran. I pulled off a favorite move I learned in that small enclosed space back in Romania. Sure I had a few bruises for souvenirs, but now I was thankful. I shaped the energy into round, swirling balls beneath my palms and thrusted myself into the air. I could fly. I flew to my car and threw on a pair of sunglasses to hide the unnatural color of my eyes. I thought I could just drive home and be normal, live normally and blissfully with my husband, have a family and be a family.
A tear slides down my face, and I quickly brush it away. I left that life behind me. “I still miss you,” I whisper into the air. But only the screech of the wind and rain against the rusted metal answers.
When I was home, Chris had come over at the request of my family; they had seen the breaking news featuring me on the tv. My name was in the headlines, making rounds on the screen. Chris greeted me at the door, folding me into his arms. There we stayed for a long time, until he asked me “what it was all about and what on earth had happened?!” So I told him the whole story. He looked horrified. I had told him a lie before. That I had gone on a trip and accidentally forgot to tell everyone. It wasn’t exactly that, but I made the fable authentic enough that they weren’t suspicious.
Chris wanted me to still marry him. He said we could go anywhere, that he was willing to do anything for me. I remember his hands holding mine as he looked into my eyes and told me that I was all he wanted. But I couldn’t do it. I began to cry, telling him that they would come for me, the way that they had shown that footage. He assured me that they could run, go into some other country, anything. But then objects began to whirl around the room, getting faster and faster as the force of my emotions increased. I hunched over, sobbing, my mind suddenly overcome with the worst outcomes while Chris wrapped his arms around me. The corner of a picture frame hit his temple with such a violent force it alost killed him.
All of a sudden, red was all I saw. Red pouring from his head. The spinning objects crashed into the floor, glass breaking and wood cracking. My sister rushed in with Lily and James, my sweet niece and nephew. They saw it all, and her husband called the ambulance. I held tightly onto Chris, leaning over his body and sobbing his name.
After a day at the hospital, I came back to my house with Julia. Upon opening the door, I immediately set to work picking up the broken pieces of glass that were too large for the vacuum. Julia began to stack the picture frames and carried them to the table to sort them out. I felt a quick stinging in my hand, and red liquid pulsed out from where a shard of glass was lodged in my hand. I couldn’t stay here. Not when I endangered people. Not when I was a threat or was seen as one.
I thanked Julia after an hour or so, and as soon as her car was out of the driveway, I dug through my closet to find a backpacking backpack. I pulled out at least five tank tops, three pairs of leggings and sweatshirts, and all my useful hygiene articles as well as all my cash. I scribbled a note dotted with tears and left it on the table. Dry sobs wracked my body as I made my way to the car and drove to the hospital. I was stocked with food and clothes, and had everything I would need. I silently prayed that I wouldn’t break out with the energy, and that I would be able to see Chris.
The stunned nurse let me in after a lot of crying and unnecessary debate, and I finally saw Chris for the last time. He was sleeping, probably a heavy, drug-induced one, and I wrote a note to him too. He looked so peaceful in his sleep, despite the gigantic bandage across his head. I trailed a hand down his face and squeezed his hand before leaning in and kissing him one last time. “I love you more than anything in the world,” I whispered before staggering quickly out of the hospital room. I was leaving because I loved him, and I had to believe that it’s better this way I was doing something better.
So here I am, in this rusted train car, chasing down the lie of a better place. I know it for what it is, but it beats alternatives. I’ve been to more places than I care to count now, and after a while they all look the same. They’re just ghost towns to me, without somewhere I can stay, without people I can love, but with a name like mine, everyone knows that there’s no one going home. “But I still dream of you,” I speak into the metal space before drifting off.
This story is based off of Radical Face’s Ghost Towns