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Pencils, Rules, Bones, Heart

JT is a 22 year old who lives in Virginia and writes in worlds of his own. His work has appeared in Every Day Fiction, once previously in Daily Science Fiction, and The Molotov Cocktail, where he won the 2015 Flash Fool contest. You can follow him on twitter @jt3_gill.

In seventh grade, my crush is a boy named Austin. He walks the halls with head down, hand out, a pencil hovering circles over his open palm.
He doesn't ride the bus home. Max Renner makes sure.
"Freak!" Max shouts, shoving him up against lockers between periods.
Despite the Government's ideas that "Extraordinary Children" would be best served through integration, the reality is that they are quickly labeled, cast out.
We have third period together. History with the human Stork--Mr. Martin. Austin slouches in the back row, head down, hair in his eyes. I steal glances at him and imagine us running away together, the extraordinary boy and his wife.
When the bell rings, I catch him at his locker.
"How do you do that with the pencils?" I ask.
"This?" He floats a pencil in front of me, twirling it in midair.
I smile. "Yeah. That."
"Why do you care?"
"The other boys can't float pencils," I say, and toss my hair defiantly.
"I can do other things too," he mumbles, looking at his feet.
"Show me," I say.
He chews his bottom lip. Underneath a smattering of freckles, his cheeks burn red.
"I'm Alyssa by the way." I hold out my hand.
"Austin," he says.
And then Max's voice shatters the moment like a pane of glass.
"Freak's got himself a girlfriend," he calls.
He stands several lockers down from us, sniggering with a group of his cronies.
The pencil hovering over Austin's hand snaps. The crack startles me.
He opens his locker and tosses in the halves.
Inside, there are dozens of others just like it. Broken.
I stop riding the bus home, choosing to walk with Austin instead.
Together, we tread the sidewalks. For me, he moves books, rocks, and of course, pencils. I clap each time, and smile when he can't keep the pride from his eyes.
And we talk.
He tells me about his parents, how they died before he was born. Radiation. The same that came from the bombs, gave him his power, made him extraordinary. I tell him how I always dreamed of being extraordinary, and we talk about the rules placed on him by the Government. The ones he's not supposed to break.
"Like what?" I ask.
"Well, we're not supposed to use our powers after dark, for one."
"Rules were meant to be broken, you know," I say, smiling wickedly.
We sneak out that night, and ride our bikes silently through the dark. I take us to Max Renner's house, cradling two eggs the whole way there. When we find Max's window, I give the eggs to Austin.
He grins at me, and the window slides up like magic. I watch him float the eggs through, hovering over Max's face.
When they break, and the yellow yolks slop across his face, I have already reached the fence, laughing, Austin right behind me.
Later, we're sitting on the curb in front of my house.
"Why did you want to hang out with me?" Austin asks.
"Because," I say. "You have a gift. I think you should use it. Break the mold. Who cares what the Government says?"
He chuckles, looking down at the pavement.
"If they caught me doing that, I'd be sent away," he says.
"So they won't catch us," I say, leaning toward him.
"You are extraordinary," he says.
And that is my first kiss.
Every story has a villain. The character who tries to break things. Ours was Max Renner, who tormented us until Austin broke.
It is a crisp October day. Austin and I are walking home, and he is floating a giant brown leaf over his hand, pulsing it upwards like a parachute, or a jellyfish. We are laughing, until Max, and the jeers of his minions interrupt us.
"Mr. and Mrs. Freak," he says. "Has a nice ring to it."
In unison, we turn. "Shut up, Max," I say, noticing how Austin's jaw flexes.
"Why? Because you two are going to make beautiful freak babies? You need some quiet?"
"I said shut up!" I say, and rush at him, pushing him the ground. His friends move back, standing around in shock.
"Get her!" Max screams. But no one moves.
And then all at once he's on his feet and has my arm pinned behind my back. He wrenches it up to my shoulder blades, and the pain is excruciating. He forces me down, onto my face, and I scream. When I look up, I see Austin standing in front of me, the leaves skittering cartwheels at his feet, an awful expression on his face.
"What are you going to do now, freak boy?" Max taunts.
"Take your hands off her," he says.
"Make me!" says Max, wrenching my arm higher. Though I don't want to, I scream at the pain.
Austin looks down at me, and the darkness in his eyes tells me that he has broken.
"I'm sorry," he says.
And this is the last thing he says before thirteen of the bones in Max Renner's right arm fracture, cracking. Splitting. Breaking. As easily as pencils.
The pain in my own arm subsides as Max falls away, clutching his own arm, shrieking on the sidewalk.
But I don't notice, because Austin is breaking away. Down the sidewalk.
And I am left here, ensconced by a ring of boys too scared to move, and one too scared to stay.
Every story has a villain. The character who tries to break things. For a time, mine was Max Renner.
Until I met Austin.
I know he had to go. That the Government suits with dark glasses would have taken him away... and probably me as well.
But if only they had taken us both. Then, together we would have been unbreakable, and I wouldn't have to live each day feeling so very un-extraordinary without him.
Austin, the boy who broke things.
Most notably, my heart.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, June 27th, 2016

Author Comments

I wrote the majority of this story on my honeymoon. We were on a cruise, and I woke up one morning thinking about all the different things that can break, both physically and metaphorically. I hacked out the main points of the story on the boat, but when we landed I completely forgot about it. Two and a half months later I rediscovered it on my computer. It brought back some good memories, so I finished in a day or two and then shipped it off!

- JT Gill
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