I just didn’t get it.
Like, at all.
I mean, I tried to understand the thought process of everyone in Tyala—my father especially—but I always wound up in the same place:
Okay? So sue me for not understanding why everything anybody ever wanted was to be plain and normal. To fit in.
I’m not going to do some big speech, or sing some big song like Belle in The Beauty and The Beast about how everybody is mediocre compared to me.
I can’t sing and I can’t judge. Because I’m just the same way.
I had no idea about the rest of the planet Ash, but everybody I knew had the same intentions: be normal. Fit it. ‘Unique’ and ‘special’ are insults because it means you are different. And different is bad.
And I knew everybody. Everybody in the kingdom of Tyala—maybe 1,000 or so people. Why? Well, I was in line to be their king.
I guess it’s time for me to introduce myself.
Well, hi. I’m 14 and my name is Jax Conner—or, as everybody else calls me, Prince Jax. My dad is King Astley and my mom is...dead.
If you want me to be really specific, then I live on the planet Ash, the continent South Hayling, and the town Tyala. I live in a castle with my dad, and yes, I’m miserable.
My dad is nice. The servants are nice. I have friends.
And yet everything is so…bland.
Here’s the dilemma: I’m different. Nobody really knows, because I’m different on the inside. I’m different because I want to be different.
Ever since I heard those warning stories about loose cannons, the ones you tell to your kids so they know to fit it, I’ve wanted to be a rebel. It sounds amazing, but I can’t be.
1, I’m the prince. I’m expected to be the most perfect of everybody: the most normal, the most plain, the person who fits in the most. So you can see how wanting to be a rebel wouldn’t go over well. I’d probably be banished like the rest of the different people, or even thrown in prison because everyone has higher expectations for me.
2, I’m Jax Conner. I mean that about who I am on the inside. All my life I’ve been pressured into being normal, so I admit, I’m gullible and timid and quiet and, yeah, normal. Besides the fact that I want to be different. So I don’t think I could mentally be a rebel, or even step out of the bounds a little.
But I was willing to try.
A long, long time ago, hundreds of years in the past, people had power. Real powers. Great powers. Really great powers.
Invisibly, flying, lightning, power over water—you name it, somebody had it. Life was different and new and exciting, because everybody had a unique ability that they grew accustomed to in day-to-day life.
Everybody had powers hundreds of years ago.
That’s when the roots of a soon-to-be tree grew in people’s minds: roots of distrust. Roots of wanting to be normal.
Most people had powers two hundred years ago.
The roots started to sprout, more and more, growing and growing and growing.
Some people had powers one hundred years ago.
The sprout began to flourish. Being different was bad, and powers were different. Powers were bad and so many people didn’t want them.
Hardly anybody had powers 70 years ago.
And soon, just a couple dozens years ago, nobody wanted powers. Nobody wanted to be different, to be unique. It was good to blend in and bad to stand out, that’s what I was always taught.
Here’s the thing about powers—they naturally occur. You can’t keep one from being inside you. You can’t force a power into your body. Nope, you’re born with a power whether you like it or not.
Weeeeell…most people didn’t like it.
Lucky for them, powers were almost extinct. Around 1 in a hundred people had a superpower, although they weren’t ‘super’ anymore. Nobody straight out called superpowers awfulpowers, but it was implied. And in the kingdom of Tyala, it was like a word association: Chocolate=yummy. Rock=hard. Powers=BAD!
But there was still that 1 person in every group of 100.
That one person had to be stomped out, so they couldn’t have kids who may or may not inherit the power-genes. They were banished.
Once you turned 15, you were tested for powers in Lyon Hall. Scientists had developed an easy way to do it: the teenager would say “Do I have powers?” out loud and, if they did, their power would use itself.
Right. Another thing about powers: they’re kind of...well, alive makes it sound creepy, but it kind of is. Powers are you, but also a part of you. They don’t have thoughts but they have a voice. In their head, of course. They know what they are.
Most powers will obey the sentence.
But yeah, sometimes it doesn’t work.
Anyways, my birthday is on March 16th.
Which was tomorrow.
In less than 24 hours, I was going to see if I had super—yes, I said ‘super’—powers or bust.
And sue me again, but I was hoping I did.
I gulped, even though I technically had nothing to be afraid of. I was the prince, in line for the throne. Everybody respected and even feared me a little.
Which I hated.
“I’m just like you!” I wanted to shout every time I saw somebody bow or tremble. “I’m a regular teenage boy! I can’t help it if my dad is the freakin’ KING! Please, don’t go!” Yeah, always ‘don’t go’. Because nobody wanted to be my friend.
It wasn’t normal to be close with royalty, go figure.
Okay, I might’ve lied a bit when I said I had friends earlier. Notice I said ‘a bit’—I have friends, just not… human friends.
Books. Books are my friends. I get lost in new worlds.
My keyboard is my friend, too. Writing is my bestie. When I write, I leave Ash and teleport into the story. Once there, I can create characters, design a world, and make anything I want happen. Everybody can be different. Everybody can be unique. Everybody can have superpowers!
But nope…I just had to live on Ash and not the planet in my books.
I tried to convince myself that gulping is ‘swallowing my fear’, and I matched into Lyon Hall.
The large room had a marble floor and a high wooden ceiling. There was no furniture minus a single armchair in the center of the room, occupied by an old looking man. Weathered skin stretched over his bones, he looked 70 but with a buttload of confidence. The man had all red clothes and glasses, plus a white beard. His eyes darted to my face.
“Scientist Ozai,” My voice trembled. I was totally freaking out.
“Prince Jax,” He said in a warm voice. A moment passed and I sighed with relief. He hadn’t bowed!
Then I realized the old man had literally gotten out of his chair and was kneeling on the floor. Before I could stop the scientist, Ozai was kissing my feet.
“It’s okay,” I took a step back. “I’m not king or anything.”
Scientist Ozai got up and took my hands in his. “Son, are you ready to figure out if you have powers or not?”
“Then say it.”
“Do I have powers?” I hollered.
“Not so loud,” Ozai winced. We waited. Nothing happened. Ozai sighed with happiness and I sighed with disappointment. There was no way I could be a rebel without a power to boost me.
“Thank you for coming,” Scientist Ozai nodded. “I’m pleased to inform you that you have no powers. You’re normal, congratulations.”
“Thanks.” I had to keep my voice from dripping with sarcasm—that would be disrespectful to the famous scientist, after all—as I started walking towards the exit. My shoes clacked on the floor as I jumped out the door.
It was a warm summer day and Lyon forest was nearby, so I kicked off my fancy black shoes, grabbed my worn sneakers I had placed by the door, and threw them on.
I raced off towards the woods.
I hummed as I strode across a fallen log wedged between two hills. “This is rebellious,” I remarked as I peered at the 10 foot drop underneath the log, “right?”
I kept walking. Birds were singing and there was a warm breeze, and it was a beautiful fall evening. I started to follow a crystal-clear stream downhill.
It wound around the hills that made up the forest, hills covered in twigs and dirt and thousands of colorful leaves that crunched beneath my feet.
Soon, the gurgling brook led me to another log stuck between the tips of two hills. Underneath the tree was the sobbing figure of a small girl curled into a ball.
“What’s the matter?” I asked as I edged near her. The girl looked like she was 7 or 8, with curly, chocolate brown hair, cowboy boots, skinny jeans and a blue V-neck.
“I—” she started to say.
She never finished because at that moment, the end of the log cracked and chipped away. The dead tree that used to be balanced over our heads started to…fall down?!
As a matter of instinct, I thrust my hand up in hopes to soften the blow.
It didn’t work—because the blow never happened.
My heart was beating so hard I was afraid it was going to pop out of my chest as I waited 1 second, 2 seconds, 3 seconds. I felt no log crushing my vital organs (maybe a bit of a stretch, but still: the log was solid and HUGE!)—but I didn’t feel any log crushing my hand, either.
I glanced up and saw….
Well, let’s just say that the superpower testing method had failed in my case.
The huge log was hovering over my outstretched fingertips. Yeah, hovering. This giant, couple-hundred-pound tree was levitating over my hand.
Also my head.
I yelped and channeled my energy into floating the log away from me and the girl. The dead tree hit the ground 5 feet away from me with a thud.
I stared at the tree.
“Are you okay?”
I stared at the girl. “Pinch me.”
She did. Hard. I didn’t wake up because this wasn’t a dream. I had a power—one of the rarer ones, too. Telekinesis was amazing and would be super-useful…if I could use it.
“Are you okay?” She repeated.
“Not after that,” I glared at her as I rubbed my bicep. Ow.
We waited in an awkward silence as I went back and forth from staring at my hands and staring at the log. Finally, the girl sighed, got up, and dusted herself off. She offered a hand to me. “Thanks for saving my life, Looky.”
“Looky?” I squinted as I got up. Was that some sort of cheesy nickname?
“Well, yeah. You’re looking at everything like having a power is crazy.”
“That’s rude,” I glared. “And it IS crazy! I’m super happy, though,” I added. “Powers will be great.”
“First, how is having powers crazy? Second… I guess that was rude. But that’s not bonkers or anything.”
I glanced at her curiously. “You’re not from here, are you?”
“No.” She looked down at her feet and kicked a pebble. We started walking through the woods. “Why?”
“No reason,” I said—even though I most definitely had a reason. “Why were you crying, anyway?” Even though I was dying to try my power out some more, it was my duty to make sure the used-to-be-sobbing 8-year-old who just had a brush with death was fine mentally, too.
“Ugh, do I have to tell you?”
“Fine. I was crying because I just got here. I don’t know anybody and it sucks. This is a strange kingdom, by the way. I haven’t seen one power used—odd. Powers are awesome and you should USE them, weirdos!”
“Wait,” I said. The girl stopped and looked at me. “No, I mean, keep walking but…hold up. You’re not from around here.”
“Yeah. I’ve already said that.”
“And…you think having powers is awesome.”
“Lastly… you don’t know anybody.”
“Are you deaf?”
“Nope,” I laughed. “I’m Jax, by the way.”
I grinned. Arava was literally the first person to not say, “Prince Jax?” after meeting me. It felt amazing to be with somebody who didn’t know my title and didn’t know my kingdom’s unspoken rule: Normal is good and powers are bad.
“So…do you have powers?” I shrugged.
Arava flipped her hair and smiled at me. “Duh. Invisibility.”
“Cool,” I said, trying to keep my cool. Even though my brain was screaming YAYAYAYAYAYAYAY! SHE HAS POOOOOWERS AND THINKS POWERS ARE GOOD! WHOOOP! like a, well, madman. Madbrain? Madbrain.
Then I realized something: we were walking out of the forest.
And people in the actual town of Tyala hated differences. Hated powers. Hated people who had powers and were different.
Then I realize something else: I had powers which, at this point in time, meant that I almost certainly had a parent with powers. My dead mother, the one person who understood me, definitely didn’t. She always wished for a power but never got one—I would swear on my life that she didn’t because Mom told me everything.
So…my dad had powers.
King Astley of Normalland had what?
Powers, I repeated to myself. Dad has powers.
And yet he was king. Nobody knew he had superpowers and he wasn’t banished—certainly not killed—for it. Which meant that my powers could never be a problem in Tyala. I could still be a normal king, ruling a normal kingdom.
I knew I was supposed to pick that option.
But I didn’t want to.
I had freakin’ superpowers. I had a young friend who didn’t know my title but did know that powers were good. Best yet? Arava was a rebel.
I had a teacher and a subject.
I grinned to myself as Arava and I walked into Tyala.
Jax Conner was learning to fight back.