Empowered: Act 1, Part 5
Here we are in the second-to-last post of Act 1! Hope you’re all enjoying it so far as the first act alone is longer than Wood You Be Mine? I’m doing my best to not make the story drag and make each party meaty and meaningful, and my #1 concern is that all of you are liking it so far, and if that’s the case, I’ll keep going with this blog as long as I have ideas. That said, let’s continue the story of Carl, El, Spore, and the rest of the cast of Empowered! P.S.: To all my high school friends, Octane and Doc Drain are based off people from Methacton. Points if you can figure out who.
The next morning, after a night where sleep was intermittent and turning your brain off was impossible, Carl knew he needed to text El right away. The wave of raw emotions from the previous night had subsided, and he felt a burden of guilt upon him. Grabbing his phone, he quickly typed out a message in the hopes of patching things up.
Feeling a twinge of relief, Carl put his phone back on his nightstand and stared up at the ceiling. Any time they bickered, they always managed to make up the next day; neither of them wanted to stay angry at the other. There was a love between the two, and it’d take a lot more than that to ruin seven years of friendship.
Lately, however, they’ve been arguing more and more. Carl sometimes wondered if the apologies were just putting a band-aid on a bullet hole.
Carl did his best not to think of it and continued to lay in bed; it was be one of those days where even the idea of getting up to do something felt like it would take all the effort in the world. As he just laid, his mind was deprived of thought, and when he did finally manage to get up, he apathetically watched mindless TV, ate his mom’s leftover tuna casserole, toyed with the idea of working out, ate more casserole, showered, and got ready for bed. They day had gone by in a blink, as most do when you dread the one to come.
As the hours melted away and the darkness of night blanketed the sky, Carl was once again laying on his bed. Closing his eyes, he mused about how the only silver lining to tomorrow was that it marked the start of his final year of high school. Each day there would just be him going through the motions, and as he looked back on previous years, he found it impossible to pinpoint individual days. The past three years felt like an amorphous blob of a memory with nothing special or distinctive about it.
He never tried to kid himself in to thinking that he’d someday consider these the best years of his life.
*err* *err* *err* *err* *err* *err* *err* *err*
It felt like Carl had only been asleep for moments when his alarm clocked ripped him awake. Slamming the snooze button with the open palm of his hand, he hoped to get a few more minutes of rest in before having to get up.
Like a banshee, Insight howled, “Get up, Carl!”
This, it turned out, was a pipe dream.
“Mnmnmnnnnmn…” he moaned.
Using what felt like all his strength, Carl sat up in bed, shifted to plant both feet on the ground, and began rubbing his face with his hands. As his elbows rested on his thighs, he got comfortable once again and started to drift off.
“Don’t you fall back to sleep on me, young man!” she screamed once more.
Throwing his body off the bed, Carl went through his closet to find something passable to wear; he never had the best sense of style but figured you can’t go wrong with a polo shirt and jeans. After briskly rubbing on some deodorant (six swipes on each side) he slid his arms in to the holes of the baby blue polo, pulled his head through the top, and straightened it out. He chose a faded pair of jeans hanging in his closet; this time he was more thoughtful about its aroma.
Walking out of his room and making left towards the bathroom, he could hear the *wrrrr* of his sister’s hairdryer. Knowing better than to just walk in on her, he instead knocked and asked, “Iris, you almost done?”
“I’M DOIN’ MY HAIR!” she screamed, “GO AWAY!”
“How the hell long does it take you to do your hair! I woke up to you drying it a half hour ago!” Turned his head towards the downstairs, he yelled, “Ma! Tell Iris to hurry up!”
“Iris! Let Carl use the bathroom!”
“OH MY GOD, I HATE THIS HO– USE!” she screeched as the door to the bathroom flung open.
“Then move out,” Carl muttered to her as she exited.
“I wish,” she said with a huff.
As Carl was just about to head in to the bathroom, he heard a high-pitched voice say his name. It was Mesmer, his little brother.
“Hey, little man,” Carl responded as he turned to look at him, “what’s…”
Locking in to Carl’s eyes, Mesmer simply stated, “You wanted to use the bathroom later, right?”
Eyes wide and mouth agape, Carl said in superficial agreement, “Yeah…I, uh, I wanted to use it later.” He then moved out of the way and let Mesmer run in.
The moment Mesmer broke eye contact, Carl violently shook his head and snapped back in to consciousness. “You’re…oh, you little shit!” he yelled, banging on the door. “I’m gonna kill you when you get outta there!”
Mesmer let out a high, squeaky laugh as Carl heard the door lock shut.
Carl moped down the stairs; if the morning were any indication of how the rest of the year was going to be, it was going to be a long-ass nine months.
“Did you wash up, hon?”
“No, ma. You gotta tell Mesmer to stop screwing with me.”
“Mesmer!” Insight screamed without missing a beat, “get down here this instant!”
“Why!” he yelled back.
“Because I said so!”
Mesmer sauntered down the stairs in trepidation; the Freeman children always knew when they were about to get yelled at.
“What did I tell you about hypnotizing your siblings?” she reprimanded.
“It’s not my fault he’s a retard, ma!”
“You will watch your language, young man! Answer the question: What did I tell you?”
Under his breath, Mesmer murmured, “You told me not to…”
“What was that?”
“I said, ‘You told me not to’!”
“That’s right. Now apologize to your brother,” she commanded.
“Sorry, Carl,” he muttered listlessly.
“It’s whatever, little man.”
“Carl, get washed up. We need to leave soon, and I don’t want to be late for work. Iris!” she then yelled to the upstairs room on the far right. “Is Wavelength still coming to get you?”
“Yes, mom!” she screamed back in response. “Just like she did last week and every day last year when you asked! Anything else I can answer for you for the hundredth time!”
“I swear, that child goes off to college and she acts like she’s the damn queen of this castle,” she muttered to herself. In a normal tone, she then added, “Carl. Go do what you gotta do.”
Finally having his chance to get in to the bathroom, Carl reached for the knob but was met with that familiar locked sound.
“I’M DOIN’ MY HAIR!”
The two Freeman boys jumped in to the car, Mesmer up front while Carl sprawled out in the back. After pulling up to Mesmer’s school and, to his horror, asking him for a kiss on the cheek (“My friends are watching!”), Insight left him with the same warning she does every year: The teachers are trained against psychic abilities, so don’t even dare attempt anything. And with that, Mesmer left the car, and Insight proceeded to take Carl to school.
While gazing in to the rear view mirror, Insight inquired, “Carl, baby, you wanna hop up front?”
“I’m good back here.”
“You don’t have to be embarrassed, Carl.”
“Are you feeling better?” she asked, already knowing the answer.
“I’m fine, ma.”
The theme of the conversation was curtness, so Insight decided it best to just remain quiet and drove in silence until she pulled up to the high school just as she did the junior high a few minutes earlier.
“Are you okay with taking the bus home?”
“I don’t got a choice, do I?”
“Your grandmother promised you her car for Christmas, remember? You can wait a few more months.”
“I guess. I gotta get in alright? Bell’s about to ring.”
“Okay. Bye, hon,” she said with a soft smile.
“Bye,” he replied back, already halfway out the vehicle.
Carl exited the car, and as he did, the bright sun hit him in the eyes, causing him to raise one hand up to block it while the other hand clung to the strap of his backpack, which was casually hanging off of one shoulder.
Immediately upon entering the school, Carl was amazed by how different it seemed to be from just two days ago. The hallways were crowded with both students and teachers; the air was filled with the sharp, tinny sounds of lockers being slammed and the acrid smells of cheap cologne soaked in to the clothes of incumbent freshman boys.
What a difference, Carl thought as he headed in to homeroom.
“And she was most definitely…wait for it…hot and bothered!” Carl overheard.
Maybe not that different.
Carl walked in and caught eyes with El; their last names were just close enough to get assigned to the same homeroom. The look they shared only lasted a moment, but it was lamentable and spoke volumes as both looked down and away the second it happened. Carl knew things would be fine, but he still felt terrible about the whole situation. For the time being, he decided to pretend like nothing happened and took a seat next to El and another buddy of theirs, Octane, who was one of the few to not yet hear any of El’s summer escapades.
Not that it would’ve stopped El if he had.
“Yo, Octane. What’s good, homie? Haven’t seen you since you left for your trip,” Carl said as the two shared a high five.
Octane, whose mouth always moved faster than his brain, responded with “Oh, so, dude, dude, dude, listen. We went on this trip to, ah-ah-ah-ah-ah,” his hand was now furiously tapping on his desk, “Mexico, and dude, it was like, ah-ah-ah-ah-ah, and I met this chick, and I-I-I-I-I…ya know?”
“Nope,” El said.
“But God bless you for trying,” Carl added.
“Dudes, it was just…UGH, ya know? That’s how nuts that shit is. Yeah, so anyway, how was your summer, big C?”
“It was…” Carl began.
“Oh! Oh! Dude! Dude! Dude! Just remembered something crazy.” He then turned and said, “Sorry, Carl, anyway…”
Just then, Octane himself was interrupted as Mr. Woods came in to take attendance. He dispensed with the cursory introduction and then rattled through the names on the sheet to see if everyone was in, using a check mark or an X for yes or no.
“Yo, Ock, what period Honors English you get?” Carl asked.
“Can you check? Didn’t you get your schedule in the mail last week?” Carl asked, confused, but not surprised, that Octane didn’t seem to think to do that.
“Ah, ha, shit, yeah,” he said, then turned to his bag and with blinding speed rummaged around for his printed-out schedule, finding it in a quarter of the time it would’ve taken most everyone else.
“Uhhhh…yeah. Looks like third period.”
“With Ms. Griffin?”
Carl was relieved; this was the same period as him. Knowing a good friend of yours has the same class as you takes half the anxiety out of the first day.
“Nice. I had her last year; she arranges the desk in tables and lets you sit wherever. Can you save me a seat where you’re at since you’re gonna get there before me?”
“My section’s VIP only. Sorry, bitch.”
“Ha!” El let out with an amused laugh.
“Ha, nah, I’ll save you a seat. We got a retard quota we gotta fill anyway. New school policy.”
“Language, Freeman,” Mr. Woods replied absentmindedly while looking down at his class schedules. Turning to his watch, he then called out, “Alright, everyone quiet down for the morning announcements.”
Grabbing the remote on his desk, he turned on the small, sixteen-inch TV that as attached to the top right corner of the wall for the morning report.
“So, Ock,” El asked, “are you not doing the TV production crew this year?”
“I am, why?”
Using his head, El gestured to the TV, which now displayed a lone girl sitting at a news desk for two. “Hello, class, I’m Vector Diaz…”
“Ah, crap! Mr. Woods, I need to…”
“I remember. I was just waiting to see how long it would take for you to.”
“Word. Alright, see ya fuckers!” Octane replied, and within seconds, he turned in to a blur of colors as his chestnut brown hair flew back. In what felt like no time at all, he went from sitting at his desk in homeroom to sitting at the news desk on the TV, the papers in front of Vector blowing all around her as she shot Octane an irritated glare.
“…and I’m Octane Rivers, everyone, wishing you all a gah-gah-great start to the new school year!” he exclaimed with a big, charismatic smile.
“Never changes, does he, El?” Carl asked.
“I certainly hope not,” he replied.
“Come to think of it,” Carl said while scratching his chin, “he’s not even supposed to be in this homeroom anyway.”
With a smile and shake of his head, El merely responded, “Incredible.”
They were both quiet for a beat, and Carl once again apologized.
“I’m sorry, man.”
“We don’t have to talk about it. It is what it is.”
“I know, it’s just…”
“I’m a big boy; it’s fine. We’re good, okay?”
Carl looked down slightly and nodded. He didn’t understand how El could forgive so readily, nor did he feel that he completely deserved it.
“Now on to more important things: Did you stalk that chick yet?”
“Come on, man,” Carl said, feigning offense, “give me some credit.”
“Alright, I may have done a quick search…”
“Carl P. Freeman…”
“There are four other Spores in the greater Los Angeles area; none of ‘em are under 18.”
“Good. Good,” El quietly stated with an acknowledging nod of his head.
“It’s a mute point anyway, she…”
“Moot,” El corrected.
“It’s moot point, not a mute point. Your point didn’t have its vocal chords ripped out or some shit.”
“Every time, man. Is that really necessary?”
“Sorry. Keep going.”
Continuing, Carl stated, “Anyway, it’s a moot point because she wasn’t into me.”
“You don’t know that. You said she was doing some assignment, right? I mean, granted there’s the overwhelming likelihood that she was blowing you off because, well, you’re you.”
“But it could be that she really did just want to do well on it,” El said, attempting to give Carl a bit of hope.
“But, I mean…she was probably blowing you off.”
He figured it best not let Carl get too hopeful. Just in case.
“Appreciate, man. Thanks.”
“It’s what I do.”
“Alright,” El said as they both stood up to the sound of the bell, “see you in Enviro?”
“Yep,” Carl replied as the two exchanged a high five, “see ya, man.”
“See ya, bruddha.”
Things progressed as one would expect the first day to, super-powered high school or not: Names were called, seats were assigned, homework was given, students awkwardly looked for friends to sit with at lunch, and girls were mercilessly ogled.
By the time Carl stepped in to room A142 for Advanced Placement Environmental Science, or AP Enviro to everyone who was taking it, the day was almost through. Having gotten turned around, Carl was a minute late when he arrived. The teacher was just finishing up the attendance as Carl interrupted.
“—ummers, has anyone seen a…”
“Here, here!” Carl exclaimed, “Carl Freeman! Sorry I’m late.”
“It’s fine, Mr. Freeman, but do try to show up on time, please,” the teacher said aridly.
“Sorry, sir,” he said to Mr. Winters as he took a seat behind El, giving him a pat on the shoulder.
“ ‘Sup, sexy.”
“Hey, lover,” El rejoined in a whisper, “how’s the day so far?”
“Aight. Saw that Wang’s in my gym class, though.”
“Ah, fuck that dude,” he heard from another student.
Turning to his right, he saw Octane seated next to El. Carl gave him a surprised look and said, “Yo, man. Didn’t know you were in this class.”
“Yeah, I signed up for it, like, like, an hour ago. Guidance counselor told me I needed to switch out of Intro to Film because I needed a science credit, and it was between this and Physics.”
“You didn’t know you needed a science class?”
“I did. I was just sort of hoping no one would notice.”
“Alright, alright, everyone listen. For those of you who do not know me, my name is Mr. Winters. I’ll be teaching Advanced Placement Environmental Science to you all this year.”
El cupped his hands, put them to his mouth and yelled, “Doc Drain! Drain Train! Whoop whoop!”
The good doctor, whose ability was the absorption and redirection of kinetic energy, was affectionately known as ‘Doc Drain’ to his students. A student years ago labeled him that, knowing he’d be too apathetic to care.
In his droning way of speaking, Doc Drain replied, “And yes, it is common knowledge that everyone prefers to call me by my first name. Be that as it may, as long as you get your work done and do not make my life any harder than it already is, you may call me whatever you would like. Even ‘Sally.’ ”
He then, cracking the smallest of smiles, let out a quick, paltry laugh at his own joke as the rest of the class remained silent, unsure whether or not he was serious.
“Moving on, we have exactly twelve people in this class, so I want you all to briefly talk amongst yourselves and find a partner for the first half of the year, keeping in mind that this will be your science companion until January.” He then added, unironically, “No pressure.”
Carl was confused; by his count, there were only eleven students total. Regardless, he didn’t pay much mind to this as both he and El ascended from their desks. “So I guess you and I…” Carl began.
Just then, another body ran through the door of room A142. It was a girl.
It was her.
“Sorry, sorry!” she exclaimed apologetically. “I’m still getting used to the layout here! I’m Spore Summers.” She then set her books down on a desk two behind where Carl was standing.
Carl noticed her before she had a chance to notice him.
Goddamnit, it makes sense she’d take this class. Why the hell didn’t I think that? he thought, reprimanding himself.
“Thank you, Ms. Summers,” Doc Drain let slowly seep out, giving her the same spiel he gave Carl moments ago, “but please remember to do show up on time. As it stands right now, we are currently choosing lab partners.”
“Dude,” Carl whispered to El, “why didn’t you tell me she was in this class if you heard him call attendance!”
“You said there were at least four other Spores in the greater Los Angeles area! I didn’t want to just recklessly jump to conclusions. That’s how people get hurt, Carl.”
Carl sighed, “Whatever, I’ll nod or whatever if we make eye contact, but I’m gonna do everything I can to…”
It was then that Carl noticed the devious look in El’s crystal blue eyes.
“Why are you smiling at me like that?”
El’s grin was a diabolical one that encompassed his entire face.
He simply stated, “You’ll thank me for this one day.”
Carl’s eyes widened.
“Oh, you motherfucker.”
“Go with God, my child.”
Then, with the faintest pokes of his forefinger, El, for the second time in less than a week, sent Carl stumbling backwards and in to Spore. He then nonchalantly turned to Octane and asked, “So, Ock, partners?”
“Oh, sorry, my friend there…” Carl stated as he knocked in to her, doing his best to pretend like he didn’t know who it was that he had just staggered in to.
“Hey!” she exclaimed, genuinely happy to see him, “Carl, right?”
“Hey, uh…Sprout?” Carl responded, trying to be cool.
“Um, no. Spore.”
“Ah, yeah, right, right.”
Audibly, El snickered.
“Hey, so, would you want to be my lab partner? I mean,” she laughed, “you’re actually, like, one of two people I know so far.”
“Oh,” Carl said, taken aback. “Yeah, cool. That’d be cool. I mean, everyone here is gonna be crazy disappointed that they won’t get to be my partner, but there’s only so much Carl to go around, ya know?” A bit of playful confidence shined through.
“Wow, so you’re like…really popular it sounds like,” Spore rejoined in good-natured sarcasm.
“It’s a curse, really. Honestly, it’s downright selfish of me to limit myself to just one partner.”
“It really, really is,” she playfully agreed.
“They need to allow some sort of science-class polygamy,” he said with a smirk.
She once again let out that beautiful, full-bodied laugh.
While looking down at his desk and straightening out a stack of papers, Doc Drain asked in his trademark lifeless drawl, “Do we have all our partners? That’s fantastic,” not allowing any time for students to actually respond. “Now, if you can all take a seat – you can sit wherever you would like – we are going to take a small practice quiz to see what you know. It will not count towards your grade.”
The students all plopped in to their seats; Carl sat three seats in on the side farthest to the left with El in front of him, Spore behind him, and Octane to his right.
While everyone settled in, El raised his hand and asked, “So what’s the incentive to do well?”
“Always the smartass,” Ock leaned in and replied in his ear.
“Fine,” Doc Drain responded, “it will now be graded.”
Groans emanated throughout the class.
“Ha…” El said, letting out a nervous laugh. “Whoops?”
Despite his misstep, El managed to (annoyingly so) get a 10 out of 10 on the quiz, Ock received a respectable 7 out of 10, and Spore, not surprisingly, also received a perfect score.
Carl got a 5.
“It’s fine,” Spore said as he made conversation with her after class. “First quiz of the year. Don’t sweat it.”
“Psh, yeah, I’m not too worried,” Carl replied, lying through his teeth.
She probably think I’m a fuckin’ moron now.
“See ya tomorrow, pal,” El said as he walked by. Then, taking a moment to formally introduce himself to Spore, he stretched out his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Elcsum, but everyone just calls me ‘El’.”
With a *swish* Octane stood momentarily next to El and similarly stated, “I’m-Octane-but-you-can-call-me-Ock.” Then just as quickly zoomed off saying, “Sorry-got-to-get-to-the-computer-lab.”
Momentarily befuddled, Spore shrugged it off and then turned to El to playfully scold him. “So you’re the jerk who made the quiz count towards our actual grade, huh?”
“It’s true; I am quite the jerk. And although Carl here didn’t get top marks, had it been a handsome test, he would’ve been first in the class, right?”
Carl looked at El mortified.
“What are you doing?” he whispered.
“I…yeah, gotta go,” she said. She then waved casually. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”
“See…see ya,” Carl responded.
“Have a good one,” El added, smiling wide.
Waiting for her to exit the classroom, Carl turned to El and just said, “Dude!”
“Hindsight being 20/20, maybe I shouldn’t have said that.”
“Well, now that I look like a jackass in front of her, it makes you look all the better. You can thank me later when you’re dick-deep in poontang.”
“Jesus, between you and Ock, it’s like I’m a lightning rod for retards.”
“Wah, wah, wah. Anyway, wanna hit up the diner?”
“Nah, man. I wanna head home and work out.”
“So methodical about that now. Boring.”
“Hey, we can’t all be naturally strong like you, you dick.”
“Not my fault I’d have to bench press a goddamn locomotive to even get a tiny burn,” El whined. Despite his powers, the boy was actually quite slender.
“Now who’s the one crying? Poor baby, are your diamond slippers too tight as well?”
“Want me to drop you off at least?”
“Yeah, I was actually gonna ask, my mom ain’t gonna be able to pick me up. You mind giving me rides home?”
“Yeah, man. No sweat. I’ll pick ya up, too. I’ll take the spare car so I don’t have to hear you bitch the entire time.”
“Thanks, man. I owe you.”
“Nah, no big deal. No one wants to be driven by their mom every day, not even one as foine as yours.”
“I’m just saying, man. Milf-town, USA.”
“Lettin’ it go because you just agreed to drive me, but you ain’t makin’ it easy.”
“Haha, I’ll stop. Alright, let’s ditch this bitch.”
TO BE CONTINUED
Methacton friends (and by that, I mean Alex and Michelle), were you able to peg who the characters were based off of? And to everyone else, how’d you like the latest post?
As Spore and Carl become lab partners, things finally get put in to motion, leading to next week’s heart-pounding conclusion to Act 1! Remember to share your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter. Will romance bloom for young Carl?