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Mother. She was too distracted to hear Susan coming. Cara quickly wiped her eyes. She hoped her mother didn’t notice. The rain softened to a drizzle.
“So, it was you. “ Susan joined her daughter at the window. “Ah, and now I see why.”
“Go away.” Cara mumbled.
“I’m going to help you. Come with me,” her mother requested before she exited Cara’s room.
Cara rolled her eyes and shook her head. Right, SHE’S going to help ME. She returned to the window in time to see Allie wrap her arms around Ryan’s neck and glare directly into Cara’s window. As the skies suddenly darkened, Cara determined it might be in everyone’s best interest if she distracted herself with her mother’s drunken delusions.
Cara’s mother was at the dinner table, already drinking directly from a bottle of cheap vodka. Apparently using the empty glass next to her was too many stops on the way from tipsy to drunk. Cara sat down across from her mother. Susan poured some of the vodka into the empty glass.
“Don’t bother classing it up for me, Mom.” Cara jabbed.
“Brat. This one is for you,” Susan retorted as she handed the glass to Cara.
“You’re drunker than I thought,” Cara refused the glass.
“Take it. Trust me. You’re going to want it.”
“I’m 12.” Cara reasoned.
Cara took the glass from her mother’s persistent hand but did not drink from it.
“You’re going to change your mind,” Susan insisted.
“You said you were going to help me.”
“Cara, I know I am a terrible parent. This probably seems like an all-time low, even for me, but I promise you, it WILL help.”
Cara looked into the glass before she placed it to her lips. The reflection that stared back at her seemed to transform from her own likeness to that of her mother’s. She set the cup down and shook her head.
“Suit yourself,” Susan continued, “I know more about what you’re going through than you think. You are not unique, Cara. I’m cursed too.”
“What?” Cara looked at her incredulously. “By alcoholism?!”
“You’re a funny girl tonight. Your powers, where do you think you got them?”
“I thought I was cursed.” Cara replied honestly.
“Well you are, but you are not alone.” Her mother confirmed as she took another swig from her bottle.
“No. No way, I would know. This is not something you can keep secret.”
“I know what keeps the curse at bay, baby girl,” Susan slurred, “a bottle of vodka a day.”
Cara picked up the glass and reconsidered. However, the aroma of its contents brought her back to reality. “You’re a drunk,” she told her mother, “and a liar.” With that, Cara stood up from the table and turned to leave.
“You don’t have to take my word for it. You’ll see. I’m dying, Cara. The cure to my curse is killing me slowly,” She stood and took her daughter by the shoulders, forcing Cara to look her in the eyes, “but it’s worth it. I poisoned myself to keep from killing someone else, and it was worth it.”
Cara was tired of listening to her mother’s booze-fueled meltdown. She shook free of her mother’s grasp and retreated to her bedroom.
“You’ll believe me soon enough,” Susan proclaimed just before she downed the contents of the glass she had previously offered to her daughter.
The rain fell steadily throughout the night as Cara quietly wept into her pillow.
It was Halloween morning when Brandon arrived in Crystal Bay. He did not know why Father Aetas had beckoned him so urgently, but the priest never sent for him if it wasn’t something of vast importance. Brandon headed toward the temple. As he hurried by, he was surprised to barely recognize the place he used to call home. The quiet little village he saved from fire many years ago was now a thriving resort town, serving primarily the country’s elite.
Father Aetas greeted him inside the sanctuary. “I’m relieved you were able to get here so soon, Waterbender. This is a pivotal moment in Cara’s life.”
“Who is Cara?” Brandon inquired.
“Cara is the reason you are here,” the priest replied, “she is powerfully gifted, my boy, dangerously so.” Father Aetas poured them each a cup of tea and explained Cara’s situation to Brandon.
“This could have dire consequences, son. That is why her mother came to me,” The priest concluded.
Brandon understood the importance of the father’s request. “I will not let you down,” he assured his old friend.
Cara checked and double-checked her hat and wig in the mirror. She had to ensure that not a single strand of her hair was exposed. Glaring reminders of the night her father died haunted her still. The lightning bolt she absorbed transformed her hair from golden blond to stark white. Her once cobalt eyes were now icy violet-blue. Spidery scars sprang out from the electrical burns on her palms, all the way around the sides of both hands. Halloween provided the perfect cover to allow Cara to escape the confines of her house.
With her hair concealed, Cara donned her go-go boots, gloves, and 60s sunglasses. Satisfied that she was unrecognizable, she grabbed her bag and hurried out the door. It had been 3 weeks since the night her supposedly terminal mother tried to promote her from daughter to drinking buddy. For the first time in 2 years, Cara actually wanted to get out of the house.
It was an unseasonably pleasant night for mid-autumn. She was more interested in people-watching than candy. Everyone was smiling and laughing, enjoying their warm Halloween. None of them realized that it was Cara’s exuberant mood that provided them all with such a perfect backdrop for a night of epic trick-or-treating. She was basking in the sights of new faces, the sounds of unfamiliar voices when she was unexpectedly jolted back to reality. She stood for a moment, stunned, after a baseball struck the side of her head and knocked her sunglasses to the ground.
“Robby, you brute!” Lissa shouted. “Hey, are you OK?” She called to Cara.
Cara panicked. A sudden gust of wind caught her wig. She quickly bent to the ground and fetched her glasses. She managed to cover her eyes before Robby came running up. Unfortunately, several pieces of snow-white hair peeked out from beneath her windblown disguise.
“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to… whoa, Cara?” He backpedaled slowly.
Seeing their friend’s reaction, Lissa, Allie, and Ryan quickly rushed to Robby’s side. When they realized who he was talking to, they collectively gasped.
“P-pl-please don’t hurt me. It was an accident, I swear. I didn’t know it was you.” Robby sniveled.
“Oh my God! Get out of here, psycho!” Allie hissed.
“Yeah, get out of here! Leave us alone!” Lissa echoed.
Cara’s heart was pounding. The wind began to whip. “I’m not going to hurt anyone,” she choked. Even as she said the words, the skies began to darken.
“OK, everybody just needs to relax.” Ryan interjected, “Cara, is your head OK?”
Cara did not expect a gesture of concern. She loved him more than ever in that moment. She didn’t even know that was possible. She smiled meekly. “My head is fine, my glasses took most of the impact. Thank you for asking.”
“I can walk you home, make sure you get there ok,” Ryan suggested. Allie shot him a look of disgust.
Cara nodded in elated agreement. “I’d like that,” she replied.
“OK. Guys, I’ll be right back.” he assured the group.
Despite his promise to return, Allie promptly proceeded to follow the twosome down the street, flanked by Robby and Lissa. Cara and Ryan walked in silence, except for the sounds of the girls jeering behind them.
“What is she supposed to be, an alien?”
“I don’t know. She should have been a witch, an ugly wicked witch.”
“Or a serial killer.”
When it began to sprinkle, Ryan finally broke the quiet that hung between them. “Don’t listen to them. They’re just scared.”
“I don’t blame them.” Cara said as she wiped the tear from her cheek.
“Take care.” Ryan told her when they reached Cara’s front walk.
“Thank you for walking me home.” She replied genuinely.
Cara hustled into the house and watched through an open window as Ryan returned to the group. She could still make out their voices as they talked.
“What, so now you love The Tempest?” Robby teased.
“No, he does not love The Tempest, do you, Ryan?” Allie demanded.
“Settle down guys. No, I do not love The Tempest. I just wanted to get rid of her before any of you got hurt.” Ryan laughed as he hugged Allie from behind. “I was protecting you from the go-go demon,” he joked.
A wave of dejection washed over Cara. As the rain returned, the foursome bolted out of sight of The Tempest’s Tower. The winds gusted and swirled. Cara’s sorrow deepened and fear grew as she watched the trees bend and sway. She needed to calm down. Maybe booze isn’t the worst idea, she decided.
Cara dug a small bottle out of her mother’s nightstand. She held her breath, put it to her lips, tossed her head back and drank it in a single gulp. She retreated to her tower and waited for the elixir to take effect.
Soon a warm sensation filled her from the inside out. The winds began to ease. The rain became a mist.
“I’m tired of the rain.” Cara stated aloud. Another drink was in order. It actually seemed to be working. She tiptoed down the stairs to where her mother was sleeping on the couch. Cara couldn’t believe her luck. The bottle in Susan’s hand was nearly full. Cara gently attempted to pry it from her mother’s grip. While doing so, a sliver of light from a passing car crossed her mother’s face. Susan’s eyes were wide open. Cara retreated in shock. When her mother did not blink, Cara reached out hesitantly and touched Susan’s hand. It was ice cold.
Cara fell to her knees and knelt before her mother. Her blood curdling wails filled the air and rattled the windows. The heavens turned a familiar apocalyptic shade as lightning erupted in webs across the sky. Cara stroked her mother’s cheek, then brushed her hair away from her face. She lowered a hand to Susan’s eyes and closed them for the final time.
When she returned to her feet, her eyes glistened with electricity. She cried static tears. The strands of her hair thrashed like angry snakes as they crackled and popped with voltage. She shrieked again and unleashed a torrent of lightning through the palms of her hands. She turned and walked out the front door, leaving the house to burn in her wake.
Brandon did not need to know the one they called “The Tempest” to know that their current weather conditions were likely her doing. He feared that death had come for Cara’s mother just as the doctors predicted it would. He hastened his pace.
Cara rounded the corner a block ahead of him and stormed down the sidewalk. He did not need to be able to see well through the torrential rains to know it was her. Electricity illuminated even her veins. He noticed almost simultaneously that flames from her house flickered over the tops of the trees. He rushed to the scene before the inferno could spread to any other homes.
The Waterbender cupped his hand and twisted his wrist subtly. It took centuries of training and practice to perfect the ability to summon powerful forces without drawing unwanted attention to oneself. His slight gesture collected the pouring rain into a cyclone in the sky. When the cyclone grew large enough to douse blaze, Brandon opened his hand. The contents of his water tornado poured down upon what was left of Cara’s home and snuffed out the flames. He quickly fled in search of Cara, before she could do any more damage.
Cara zapped Ryan’s front gate off its hinges. She walked half way up the walk and stopped. She could see Ryan peeking through a curtain, watching her.
“Mom! Come quick!” She heard him call. His voice dripped with terror.
The front door opened. Ryan’s mother emerged. “Cara, honey, what is happening to you? Are you alright?” Her voice trembled as she spoke.
“No.” Cara stated simply as she raised a hand and snapped at Ryan’s mother with a rope of electricity.
The horrified woman screamed, “Call 9-1-1!”, as she quickly slammed the door shut and locked it.
The bolt whipped wildly and struck the porch swing, causing splinters of wreckage to blast through the nearby windows of the house. Cara summoned another charged whip with her other hand.
Cara spun around to see who dared disturb her blaze of glory. “Who are you?” She demanded. Her voice echoed fiercely, no longer sounding human at all. “What do you want?” She bellowed.
“I want to help you.” Brandon assured as he cautiously approached her.
She laughed wickedly, “The last person to tell me that is lying dead in the burning hell that used to be my home.”
“Your mother did the best she could. Her death was not your fault, Cara.” He yelled over the din of the whipping winds.
“You seem to know a lot about me…”
“Brandon,” he finished.
“Brandon. So you should know, I have nothing left, nothing to lose.” With that she directed a gust in his direction, knocking him off his feet. “Don’t get in my way,” she warned.
Cara returned her attention to Ryan’s family home. She again started to raise a lethal hand when an irresistible force caused her to stop.
“I can’t let you do this!” Brandon persisted.
Cara was defiant. She fought against the unseen force holding down her arm. The Waterbender stood unmoved, holding his hand close to his body, palm facing the Cara. The harder she resisted, the more the paralysis consumed her. It felt like she was suffocating. “What are you doing to me?” she besought.
“I’m sorry,” he replied, “so, so sorry. It’s called blood-bending. It is a matter of last resort. You cannot resist. Please, just relax, Cara. You will be more comfortable, I promise. I suspect the police will arrive soon. We must go, now.”
The girl whimpered in agony as she continued to oppose her captor. She learned one thing was true; she could not resist. Against her will, Brandon proceeded to move one of her feet after the other. He controlled her like a puppeteer. Cara couldn’t imagine a greater sense of violation. She wished he would just kill her and end this once and for all. She could hear him behind her, uttering “I’m sorry” over and over. She would not accept his hollow apologies. She couldn’t even turn her head to look at him when she declared her undying hatred for him.
Brandon walked her directly through the doors of the church and released her before Father Aetas. Weakened from the toll the Waterbender’s invasion had taken on her, she fainted into the priest’s arms.
“Good work, Waterbender, thank you.” the priest exalted.
“Don’t thank me just yet, Father. I fear I may never gain her trust now.” Brandon responded honestly.
She woke the next day to find Brandon sitting at her bedside, his hand cupped over hers.
“Cara? I wanted to be here when you woke up. Please you must understand why I did what I did. I am so deeply sorry. I wish I had handled it differently.” He admitted remorsefully.
Cara trembled as she withdrew her hand. She looked Brandon directly in the eyes. “You’re a monster,” she whispered…
Want to read what else is happening in the Mayhem Universe?
The Waterbender, part 1
The Waterbender, part 2
Baan the Deathlord
The Tempest’s Tower 1: Vengeance
Keep up with all of the superhero action by using the “Category” menu on my blog’s main page to select the Mayhem Universe option.
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