"C'mon Toyo, hurry up!" Toyo's brother, Sutton, called.
"I'm almost ready!" Toyo shouted, running down the stairs after his brother. He was right, they were going to be late. Toyo needed to get to school nearly an hour before class started to avoid his bullies.
"Sorry," he muttered to his brother as they walked out the door.
"Don't be," his brother smiled and ruffled his hair. Sutton had a much better time in school, his powers were average, he could read auras and feel emotions. On the other hand, Toyo could see other people's memories, but only if he had physical contact with them.
Powers that were limited weren't considered useful anymore. The Community had been created to protect those born with powers the mundane human mind couldn't understand. Yet, as generations passed and the power of the community members grew and mutated, those with older skills or abilities with limitations were often outcast.
"As if I asked for these weak powers," Toyo muttered to himself.
"What did you say?" Sutton asked.
"Oh, uh, nothing?" Toyo said. He had forgotten Sutton was walking with him for a moment.
After a couple of minutes, they arrived at the Community's high school. Sutton ran in to greet his friends, and Toyo went off to find his secret spot in the library. The librarian, Mr. Brooks, was a nice man and always let him come in early and listened to his problems. Especially the ones with his bullies.
"I've been there before," Mr. Brooks had said the first time Toyo talked to him, "Don't you worry about it, they'll get what's coming to them."
"Almost there," Toyo thought to himself as he walked through the hallways toward the library.
"Where are you going?" a familiar voice asked from behind Toyo.
"No," Toyo spun around and faced Ian.
Ian used to be Toyo's best friend. They had been inseparable from birth until they both manifested around thirteen years old when they both manifested their powers, and Ian had found friends with cooler capabilities than Toyo. Toyo had stayed behind, never quite fitting in with the other kids, and his abilities made him even more of a target for bullying.
"Now, come on, don't act like that," Ian said, putting an arm around Toyo's shoulders and steering him in the opposite direction of the library.
"Can you just let me go?" Toyo said.
"We're just going to have a little fun," Ian gave a harsh laugh, "Like the good ole days," he said.
Toyo shuddered at Ian's tone and considered his options. Ian had super strength, so it wasn't like Toyo could fight his way out of it. When Ian squeezed Toyo's shoulder, Toyo realized there was something he hadn't tried before.
With Ian's hand on his shoulder, Toyo was able to see into his memories. He browsed through them, searching for Ian's memories with him. He focused all of his energy on a memory of the two of them playing together.
"What are you doing!" Ian said, squeezing him just a bit too hard to be comfortable.
"I'm not-" Toyo started.
"Get out of my head!" Ian snarled and slammed Toyo against the wall of lockers.
Toyo tried again, feeling something he hadn't felt before, it felt like he was able to tug on the memory itself.
Ian yelled and put his hands on his head as if he were in pain. Toyo took that as his chance and began running.
"Get back here, Toyo!" Ian screamed, but Toyo kept running.
He ran until he was out of the school and on his way to the main street of the Community, where all the shops were located. He figured he could hide out here for a little while, before heading back home.
As he walked along the street, he couldn't help but wonder what had he done to Ian. It wasn't something he had done before. He thought he had just been looking at the memory, but he had hurt Ian, even if he hadn't meant to.
He was drowning in his thoughts when a loud voice pierced his ears.
"Help me!" a young feminine voice called.
He ran towards the voice and into an alley where he saw a young woman struggling to get away from a masked stranger, the girl was Melanie, one of his school bullies.
"Hey! Let her go!" he cried, running towards the pair.
The masked man looked up as Toyo came near. He looked at Toyo, and Toyo slowly felt the air around him begin to shift, as though it was pushing him into the ground.
"Hey! What are you-" he started, but even his mouth began to feel too heavy to move.
"He's controlling the pressure around me," Toyo thought. He had heard about this, but only on the recent news. There was a community member kidnapping people, and no one could figure out how they were doing it.
He watched, terrified, and tried to fight the pressure around him, as the masked stranger kept their eyes on him as they shoved the girl into the van. Once their eye contact was broken, Toyo felt as though he could move again.
As soon as he was able to move, Toyo ran to the Investigations Department on Main Street and went to report what he saw. They listened to Toyo tell his story and thanked him for his time.
"Hey, kid, what's your power anyway?" the man who took Toyo's report, Evergreen, asked.
"I can see into other people's memories," Toyo said, "But only if I can physically touch them."
"That's pretty cool, kid!" Evergreen said, and Toyo looked at him in confusion. No one had ever called his powers cool before. Evergreen looked at Toyo, considering him, "we don't usually do this, but maybe you could help us with this case? We need all the help we can get, and you're the only one who's ever actually seen one of them."
"Um," Toyo looked at Evergreen, "Sure. Although I'm not really sure how I can help."
"Maybe you'll see something or find something that we haven't," Evergreen said with a smile. "Get some rest and come back here tomorrow and we'll see what we can start you off with."
Toyo nodded and started to make his way back home. He really wasn't sure how he could help with this case, but if Evergreen thought he could help, he would try his best.
He started to walk up to his driveway when he saw Ian standing by his front door. He immediately turned around and began to walk the other way, hoping he could get away before Ian noticed him.
"Toyo! Stop! I'm not!" Toyo could hear Ian sigh across the yard, "I'm not going to hurt you! I just...I just want to talk to you."
Toyo stopped and turned around. There was no reason to talk to Ian.
"Toyo, I want to apologize," Ian said.
Toyo's brows rose to his hairline, "You want to what?"
"I want to apologize," Ian said. He came closer to Toyo, who backed away slowly. Ian put his hands up as though he was trying to show that he wasn't going to hurt Toyo.
"Listen, I'm sorry okay" Ian ran a hand through his hair, "I'm sorry about the way I've been treating you. And I know that saying sorry doesn't fix anything, but I wanted to say it."
"Why are you apologizing now?" Toyo asked.
"Because…" Ian paused for a second, "Because whatever you did today, it brought my old memories back. It was like I was reliving them in real-time."
"What are you talking about?" Toyo asked.
"You pulled that memory out of the darkest part of my mind, and it was like I saw it, reliving it, right there in the hallway" Ian gave a slightly rushed laugh, "it was amazing."
Toyo looked at him in disbelief, "I don't know what you're talking about," but he did. He knew he had done something different this time around, but he hadn't known what it was.
"Toyo, you don't understand, that was amazing! Do you know what you could do with that kind of power? You could-" Ian began.
Toyo stared at him as he continued on, and something clicked in his brain. "You're not even sorry, are you?"
"What are you talking about?" Ian asked.
"You're not even sorry!" Toyo snorted, "I was actually taking you seriously for a second, but you're not even sorry! You just think I'm cool enough to join your little clique now!"
"Toyo, you're overreacting," Ian said.
Toyo held out his hand, "Let me see."
"What?" Ian asked.
"Let me see your memories from right before you got here" Toyo motioned again for Ian to give him his hand, "If I'm right, I'll probably see you talking to your friends about my powers and telling you to come to get me. Since you don't have a brain of your own to think with."
Ian glared at Toyo and then looked over Toyo's shoulder. "Toyo," he whispered, "who is that?"
Toyo turned around and saw the same masked man from earlier standing no more than fifty feet away. The van was parked on the other side of the street.
"Ian, we have to run!" Toyo cried, getting ready to do just that.
"What are you talking about, Toyo?" Ian said, standing up straighter than he had before, "I got this."
"You should listen to your friend," the man's voice was gruff and low. Ian smirked and rolled up his sleeves, as though he was getting ready to fight. His expression soon changed as he locked eyes with the man. Toyo could see what was happening, Ian was getting pulled down just as he was.
"Toyo," Ian gasped out, "Run!"
Toyo began to run towards the main street again. He figured if he could get Evergreen there in time, he would be able to stop the masked man and save Ian.
"I'm sorry, kid" Evergreen apologized as they both arrived back at his house, and there was no sign of Ian, the masked man, or his van.
"I should've stayed and helped!" Toyo cried.
"There was nothing you could have done. You did the right thing," Evergreen promised.
"I could've done something!" Toyo emphasized, "I could've -" Toyo cut himself off. Evergreen was right, there was nothing he could've done, his powers wouldn't have helped him here.
"Listen, kid," Evergreen put a hand on his shoulder, "Leave it to us for now. You need to get some rest, as much as you can, and come back to the office in the morning, maybe you'll remember something you hadn't been able to before that'll be really helpful."
"Maybe," Toyo muttered.
The next day, Toyo was working with Evergreen in his office, going over everything Toyo had seen.
"There's nothing else! I can't remember anything else!" Toyo yelled, slamming his fists on the table in front of him.
"It's okay, kid, relax," Evergreen said, looking at his watch. "Let's take a break, okay. I'll buy you lunch."
They had been working since eight, and it was already twelve, "Alright," he sighed. Evergreen packed up all of his things into his utility belt, including a set of department-issued handcuffs, that stopped power users from using their powers.
They walked out of the department building together and headed down Main street when Toyo stopped.
"Hey! Mr. Brooks!" he called, waving at the librarian who had been walking towards them.
The librarian jumped for a second, dropping some books he had been carrying. Toyo went to help him pick them up.
"Oh! Toyo! You scared me!" Mr. Brooks laughed.
"Sorry, Mr. Brooks," Toyo told the librarian. As he gave him the last set of papers, their hands brushed, and Toyo saw into Mr. Brooks' memories.
Memories of Mr. Brooks slipping a black mask over his face, Mr. Brooks holding Toyo still with his powers, Mr. Brooks, as he held Ian still and watched Toyo run away.
Toyo gasped and scrambled backward. "It's him!" he gasped, pointing at Mr. Brooks, "Evergreen, it's him!"
Evergreen jumped into action, slipping the handcuffs around one of Mr. Brooks' wrists, before wrestling the other one.
They marched Mr. Brooks back to the department building and sat him down in Evergreen's office.
"Where are they?" Evergreen demanded.
Mr. Brooks didn't say anything.
"Where are they!" Evergreen demanded again. Toyo sat next to Evergreen and stared at Mr. Brooks. Brooks sat quietly and stared at the table in front of him until Toyo spoke.
"How could you?" Toyo whispered.
Mr. Brooks locked eyes with him and seemed genuinely interested in what Toyo had said.
"How could I?" he asked, "How could I punish all of those wretched people who bullied me?"
Toyo stared at him. His words, "they'll get what's coming to them," ringing around in his head.
"You wanted to get back at your bullies? That's why you did this?" Toyo stared at him in disgust.
"Of course, I did! How are you questioning me when I took care of that little bastard Ian for you!" Mr. Brooks ranted.
Toyo and Evergreen stared as Mr. Brooks continued, "All of them! Every single last one of them deserves to feel the pain that I felt, that WE felt."
"They were kids!" Evergreen exclaimed, "That doesn't disregard what they did to you, but that doesn't mean that you should be the one to punish them!"
Mr. Brooks sat back in his chair and seemingly calmed himself down. He smiled harshly and stared at Evergreen, "It doesn't matter now, you'll never find them."
Toyo stared at Mr. Brooks and stood up, walking around till he was at his back.
"Toyo, what are you-" Evergreen began to ask.
"I'm finding them," he said, taking a deep breath and put his hands to Mr. Brooks' temples. He scanned through his memories, and when he felt that familiar pull that he had felt with Ian, he tugged at the memory until Mr. Brooks cried out. Toyo was reliving the memory, watching it through Mr. Brooks' eyes. He focused on every last detail until he saw something familiar and let go.
He was sweating by the time he turned to Evergreen, "They're at the school."
"What?" Evergreen asked.
"They're in the storage room of the library at school," Toyo explained, "He surrounded them by books so no one could hear them. He put those handcuffs on them," Toyo gestured to the handcuffs around the handcuffs that were around Mr. Brooks' wrists, "so that they couldn't fight their way out."
"Let's go," Evergreen said as he got up.
Evergreen assembled a team, and they went to the school. Toyo had been right, Melanie and Ian, along with three adults who looked to be Mr. Brooks' age, were all huddled in the center of the storage room surrounded by books. The team Evergreen had assembled worked on unlocking all of the handcuffs, and checking in on the five victims.
"Are you okay?' Ian said, coming up to Toyo.
"Am I okay? I should be asking you that! You're the one who got taken!" Toyo exclaimed. Ian gave a slight chuckle and looked at Toyo.
"Toyo, I'm okay," he said, rubbing his wrists to get rid of the marks that the handcuffs had left. "I was only gone for a few hours. Honestly, it was nice to not have to do homework this weekend."
Toyo gave a soft laugh. "I'm glad you're okay."
"I am," Ian nodded, "and I wanted to tell you that I really am sorry for how I've treated you. You were right, I did talk to my friends before going to see you, but it wasn't like you thought. They uh, they told me how messed up it was that I had turned my back on you."
Toyo stared at him in confusion, "What?"
"Yeah," Ian ran a hand through his hair, "They basically ripped me a new one. They were right, you were right. I shouldn't have just left you alone like that. We were both manifesting, and just because we have different powers doesn't mean mine are better than yours."
"Although," Ian started again, "yours might just be cooler than mine."
Toyo chuckled. "Funny, superman."
Ian laughed and shoved Toyo lightly, "I'm serious! You could really do some damage with those powers of yours. Some mind-meld action right there!"
Toyo laughed, and Ian chuckled, just like old times. "I want to make it up to you," Ian said seriously after a moment.
Toyo shook his head, "you don't have to."
Ian smiled and rested his hand on Toyo's shoulder, "I do. Maybe we can practice developing your powers together? After school?"
"I'd like that," Toyo nodded.
"Good," Ian said with a smile. He paused for a second before asking, "Do you know what's going to happen to the guy who took us?"
"You mean Mr. Brooks?" Toyo asked, to Ian's shocked face, he added, "Yeah, it was him. He was trying to get back at his bullies, and at mine, I guess."
Ian's face dropped, "I really am sorry."
"I know. I'm sorry too, if it wasn't for me blabbing to him, you wouldn't be in this mess." Toyo said.
"It's okay. None of us are really hurt, but we've definitely hurt some people." Ian said.
"But, you didn't deserve to be kidnapped!" Toyo said.
"No, we didn't, but we definitely have some things that we all need to work on. Maybe Mr. Brooks does too," Ian said quietly.
"Yeah he does, I'm not sure what's going to happen to him, but Evergreen, the Investigations guy who has been helping me, I think he'll figure it out," Toyo nodded.
They were sitting silently when Ian asked, "Want to get out of here and get some food?"
"God, yes," Toyo said, "I'm starving."
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Hi Autumn! I'm part of your critique circle. Your story is really wonderful! I'm impressed with how you were able to create such a detailed, complete narrative in so few words. I think one of this story's greatest strengths comes through in your ability to create relationships. From the short-tempered but unconditionally loving sibling bond, to an adult role-model who is sympathetic (a little tooo sympathetic!) to Toyo's problems, and two best friends turning on each other as one becomes cooler than the other. All are grounded in reality ...
Thank you so much! This was my first time writing for something outside of a classroom and I wasn't really sure how it would be received. I'm really happy that I was able to tell the story and that what I wanted to come across did! I'm hoping to learn more so that I can create new stories. Thank you so much for your feedback it means a lot to me!