Empowered: Act 2, Part 4

Empowered: Act 2, Part 4



Work’s got me busy today, so I don’t have a whole lot to say here other than let’s get this goddamn party started! The second-to-last part of Empowered Act 2 begins now:


“ ‘Can’t wait for tonight,’ ” Carl said to Octane while they sat at their lab table the following Friday morning.

“Wha-wha-what? What’s tonight? Are we doing something? I didn’t know if we were doing something. What are we doing?”

“No, that’s Spore’s status,” Carl corrected as he looked at the Facebook app on his iPhone. “ ‘Can’t wait for tonight.’ ”

“You should really block her, man. Reading her statuses ain’t-ain’t-ain’t healthy,” Octane replied.

“What do you think she’s doing?”

“No clue.”

“Think it has something to do with why she’s out today?”

“Not sure, man.”

“Do you think she’s hanging out with another guy?”

“She wouldn’t do that to you. It’s been, what, two weeks? Plus you’re technically still together.”

“Yeah, I guess. I don’t know.”

“Easier said than done, but just don’t think about it,” Octane said with a shrug. “It’s not gonna make it any better for you.”

Disregarding his advice, Carl then asked, “Has she said anything to you during the yearbook club?”

“I don’t really interact with-with-with her too much. She does the photo editing for the printed book; I do the video editing for the-the-the DVD. Plus, it’d just be kinda awkward to talk about it: ‘Hey, Spore. I like what you did with the Spanish Club page, also, how come you don’t want to fuck Carl as much lately?’ ”

“Yeah, fair enough.”

“Have you-you-you given any thought to what she said?”

“About what?”

“About your issues or whatever.”

“She’s ridiculous. Like, she was upset that we only did the crap I wanted to do apparently. So I told her last week we can do whatever she wants to, then she says that there are ‘deep problems’ that I’m not focusing on. She’s just bein’ a girl.”

An incredulous “Huh” was Octane’s only contribution.

“Whatever. El says it’ll all be fine so long as I play it cool.”

“Speaking of…” Octane said as he cocked his head towards El’s direction.

Diverting his attention away from Octane, Carl glanced over his right shoulder and saw El at his table with Glacier. He was leaning and smiling, and she was smiling back wide as him. Carl managed to overhear part of their conversation:

“You know, it’s funny,” El began, “girls all seem to want the bad boy who’s only good for her. And guy just wants the good girl who’s only bad for him.”

El’s overt flirtation made the fair-skinned redhead blush, and she shot him an intrigued glance.

“He really does know a lot about women, doesn’t he?” Carl asked, his voice bubbling slightly with jealousy.

“Dude’s got charm to spare; that’s for sure,” Octane replied, noticing Carl’s annoyed disposition.

“What’s wrong now?”

“Nothing,” Carl replied, cutting short his lingering stare at El’s table.

Unconvinced, Octane merely asked, “Seems happy, though, doesn’t he?”

Carl scoffed and shook his head in agreement, not picking up on the point his friend had tried to make.

“He tell you about this parents?” Octane asked.

“What about ‘em?”

“You should ask.”

“Yeah, maybe later,” Carl replied, disregarding what Octane had just said.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Not being able to get her off his mind, Carl sent Spore a text that night at 9:30. ‘Whats tonite?’ the message read, referencing her Facebook post. Three hours passed without a response, and Carl sent another text to her, this one more acidic in tone: ‘Can’t respond? Real nice.’ This, too, went unanswered.

Without welcome or warning, Carl’s thoughts were plagued by the worst-case scenario: Spore cheating on him.

Is that what’s going on? Is she with someone else? Is why she’s having such an easy time of all this?

Has she moved on?

All he could think now was her in some other man’s arms. Someone bigger than him, smarter than him, more attractive than him. Someone that’s making her laugh, making her heart beat fast. Someone holding her, kissing her, getting in to bed with her, and sleeping with her.

Someone taking his power away from him.

These unfounded fears filled Carl with an irrational contempt for this imaginary home-wrecker that he had concocted.

Whatever, let her get with someone else, he thought as his eyes started to fill with tears. Like I give a shit.

He then planted his face in to his pillow and forced himself to go to sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That next morning, Carl dug through the bottom drawer of his desk. Finally finding what he was looking for, he cracked open the cover to the notebook he just retrieved, put pen against paper, and began writing:


Carl closed the marble notebook that he had opened for the first time in almost six months and put it in his desk, making sure to cover it with a stack of papers so no one would see it. Unsure of what to do next, he pulled out his phone to call El.

“Yo, bud,” El answered on the other line.

“Yo, what are you up to?”

“Glacier’s about to come by. I rented some BS nature documentary and told her it’d be a good way to study.”

“Oh, I was gonna see if you wanted to come here.”

“I already have these plans. Sorry, man. Everything alright?”

“I…uh…I texted Spore last night.”

“Dude.”

“Twice.”

“DUDE!”

“I couldn’t help it! I can’t get her off my mind, man.”

“It’s alright. I guess you’re still pretty inexperienced, so it’s bound to happen,” El replied, unaware of the condescending weight of his words.

“Don’t be a dick.”

“Just saying, man. You ought to listen to me more; I know what I’m talking about.”

“You’re not always right, you know.”

“Except that she didn’t text you back, did she?”

“Whatever.”

“What’s your problem right now? Seriously?”

“Nothing. Have fun,” Carl replied. Without waiting for a response from El, he clicked his phone off and threw it angrily on his bed.

So damn selfish. Dude’s got enough and fucks enough. Doesn’t realize how good he has it either, I bet. Comes so goddamn easy for him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After spending the rest of the weekend in an angry, depressed solitude, Carl was dreading going through the motions of another week of high school. As the minutes slowly ticked away and lunchtime rolled around, Carl, though not having had much of an appetite since the break, knew he had to eat. Purchasing a cafeteria lunch of an overcooked cheeseburger, fries that were too soggy to enjoy, watered-down iced tea, and a stale chocolate chip cookie, he sat down at his usual table with his friends: Copycat, Shift, Brainstorm, Yawn, and Reach.

“Yo, big Carl. How you holding up?” asked Brainstorm.

“Aight,” he responded, looking down at his unappealing lunch.

“Stiff upper lip, buddy,” Shift said. “Plenty of fish in the sea.”

“Yeah, but something tells me his rod is defective,” joked Reach.

“Not cool, man,” retorted Yawn.

“It’s whatever,” Carl muttered, caring neither for the comment nor conversation in general.

Moving the topic away from Carl and towards teenage boy antics, Shift said with a smirk, “Hey, ‘Storm, those chips look good.”

“Yeah, they’re harvest chedd—”

But before he could finish, Shift phased half of his torso through Reach, seated to his right, and solidified his hand to take the snack off his tray.

“Oh, that’s real cute,” Brainstorm replied. “But I think I’ll help myself to your hotdog,” he then mimed a lasso and whipped Shift’s hotdog off his plate and right in to his hand, “and I feel that Yawn’s pickle would go great with it.” Doing the same motion, he swiped Yawn’s dill spear off his plate and placed in snuggle between the bun and meat.

“You guys are so immature,” Reach noted. Then, pretending to stretch, he elongated his arms, curved around both Carl and Shift in an attempt to take Yawn’s salad off his plate.

“Don’t think so buddy. Sweet dreams,” Yawn said with a wink.

“Crap,” was the only word Reach could get out before he went face down in his tray.

“Shouldn’t have made…” Copycat prime stated.

“…eye contact,” his duplicate finished, as one went right and the other went left to loot what Reach’s face wasn’t touching on his plate. The two halves of Copycat merged back together as he made his way back to his seat, holding the bounty that both parts had stolen.

“Well,” Brainstorm stated, “Looks like CC is today’s winner.”

“You, uh, want some of these chips, bud?” Copycat asked Carl, who he noticed was staring blankly at his food.

“Nah, man,” Carl remarked, having less of an appetite than before. “Not really hungry.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One month ago:

“And they play this stupid game where they steal each others’ lunches the whole time. It’s obnoxious.”

“Sorry, babe.”

“It’s just so stupid,” Carl replied, attempting to mask his jealousy.

“You can join in, too.”

“Yeah, well, except that…”

“I know, Carl. I know.”

“I’m just sayin’.”

“You just say it a lot, babe.”

“But at least I got you, right?”

Spore was silent and looked down.

“What’s wrong?” Carl asked.

“Nothing. But it wouldn’t matter whether or not we’re together,” she then let her words linger for a moment before continuing. “Just because you don’t have a power doesn’t mean you’re not special. You are, Carl. I keep trying to tell you that.”

“Yeah, and my mom’s been telling me that since I was born. And after you see everyone around you getting stronger and stronger every day, it starts losin’ its meaning.”

“Oh, cutie,” Spore replied, shaking her heard. “When will you learn?”

“I’m slow, remember?”

Spore let out a tiny laugh. She then looked at the blue-and-yellow rental box on Carl’s nightstand and saw The Transporter labeled across the side.

“I thought you were going to rent The Notebook?”

“Oh, is…is that what you said?” Carl remarked. “I’m almost positive you said The Transporter.”

“ ‘Pure popcorn pleasure for older teens and up,’ ” Spore said, picking up the box and reciting the review on the back. “Carl, there’s actually something I’ve wanted to talk to you about.”

“What’s up?”

“Um,” she began, looking at him in the eyes, the eyes of a boy she didn’t want to hurt. “Nothing. It was nothing.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hey, Carl!” Brainstorm said, snapping his fingers in front of Carl’s face. “Snap out of it; you’re going to be late for Health.”

Carl hadn’t realized he had been lost in his thoughts for majority of the lunch period. Coming out of his daze, he thanked Brainstorm, grabbed his things, and went on with his day. When he wasn’t thinking about Spore, he was thinking of ways to try to not think of her. With her being all he could focus on, everything else around him was a blob of places and people and things. None of it seemed distinct, nor did any of it seem important. It was just there.

As Carl began his trudge to Environmental, he came upon a surprising sight: Spore stood outside the doorway, waiting for him.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey,” she returned.

“How’ve you been?”

“What was with that text last night?”

she asked with certain bite in her voice.

“Just curious what you were doin’.”

“Ugh, I went with my family to visit my grandparents up north. That’s what. What did you think I was doing?”

“I don’t know. With some other dude?”

“Is that what you think of me? That I’m going to go slut it up behind your back?”

“Guess so…” Carl muttered, looking away.

“I don’t think we should be together anymore, Carl. I’m sorry.”

“You’re so selfish…” he sneered as he shook his head. “Not me.”

“Me? I’m the selfish one! Are you serious!”

“You make me care for you, then you did this shit? Without really giving things a chance? No one’s ever gonna love you as much as I do.”

“Oh my God, you’re unbelievable. I asked you for one thing, Carl, one thing: A little time. But no, you couldn’t give me that. I told you that you always put yourself first, and what do you do to try to prove me wrong? You go out of your way to talk to me when I specifically asked for you not to. Did you really not see how you were doing the exact thing I said was the problem!

“I care for you, Carl. I really do,” she continued, “but I don’t think you ever really cared for me as much as you just cared for yourself. And I really think ‘us’ wasn’t as great as you seem to think it was. I hope…I know one day you’ll find what you’re looking for, but it just won’t be with me. I’m sorry.”

Spore turned and went in to the classroom. Carl stood there and attempted to let her words marinate in his mind.

And with that, things were officially over. Spore had ended it. Everything Carl had…all the love and joy and happiness and strength…it was all gone. In what felt like no time at all, things had gone from great to downright bad.

And little did Carl know, things were about to go from bad to worse.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


TO BE CONTINUED


Compliments and criticisms are always welcome, so let me know on Facebook and Twitter what you thought! Next week is our Act 2 conclusion, and I hope to see you all then. Have a great weekend!





Empowered: Act 2, Part 3

Empowered: Act 2, Part 3



I’ll start right off and apologize for the interruption in posts. I won’t lie: I’m pretty disappointed in myself for missing last week’s, but my allergies were absolutely wrecking me, and I assumed everyone would rather wait a week than be treated to a subpar entry. I suppose I’m my own toughest critic, and I try to keep entries as regular as possible. So to try to compensate, this week’s is extra sized for your pleasure.

Before we start, a special thanks to dear friend Amy Chen and her suggestion of getting some Allegra to battle the allergies I was having. And now the return of Empowered, which is back and better than ever.


It was impossible for Carl to sleep that night, so after hours of desperate tossing and turning, he decided to leave the house just barely after the sun rose and go on a drive to clear his head and empty his thoughts. He had no idea where he was going; the only thing that he knew was that he had to go somewhere. Anywhere.

Following the road for about twenty-five minutes, Carl came upon a local park and decided it’d be as good a place as any to pull over. He got out and sat on top of his car, letting the cool, crisp morning air circulate in through his nose and out through his mouth. The act was therapeutic and helped him to relax slightly.

Try as he might, his thoughts were still plagued by Spore and the desire to talk to her. I wonder what she’s doing right now. Is she thinking of me? Maybe I should te…

A sudden noise of rubber against asphalt was able to divert his attention away from her and towards a pair of young boys playing a game of one-on-one on the basketball court about thirty yards away. As they played, the Hispanic teens, clearly twins, were using their powers to try to get the better of one another.

He recognized them as Fahrenheit and Celsius, ninth graders from his high school. While they played, Celsius would freeze his brother’s feet in place, and Fahrenheit would overheat them to melt the ice and regain mobility. They went back and forth like this: Body parts were frozen and singed in good fun as the boys played their game, using their hands to funnel their powers.

Carl looked at his own hands and then, for no logical reason, he outstretched his arms towards the grass, shut his eyes, furrowed his brow, and concentrated on channeling some sort of power.

Nothing.

“Never gets easier,” he mumbled as he looked again at his ineffective hands, unsure of what he had expected to happen.

He then glanced back towards the two boys, and after doing so, despair was replaced by a feeling of déjà vu. Initially confused, he had to comb his memories until he finally pinpointed what it was: The night of the dance, the night he met another pair of twins. A much different pair of twins. The guys with the weird names and ambiguous powers who talked about Carl’s name and Carl’s power – or lack thereof – and their words suddenly rang in his ears: ‘Maybe it’s not that it doesn’t mean anything; maybe it’s that it could mean anything.’

“The hell did that even mean?” he muttered to himself as he leaned back on the windshield of his car. It was strange; he hadn’t thought about them or that conversation since that night. Every time he thought back to that dance, the first and only thing he would think of was meeting Spore.

Now the brothers’ words had a sharp poignancy to them. Just as he thought he had found what ‘defined’ him, just as he began to feel special in some way…it all threatened to disappear forever.

He began to realize that there are few things worse than having a taste of something you’ve always wanted only to have it ripped away.

Carl sat on his car for a few minutes more as he watched this second pair of brothers attempt to outdo each other. When one froze, the other thawed. When one burned, the other cooled. Carl couldn’t help but note the harmony of it all. Fire and ice in perfect balance.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hearing the door to the house open as Carl returned home, Insight came in to the hallway while still holding the plate she was drying. “Where were you, Carl? I was getting…”

She then caught eyes with her son and saw the sadness in him. He always exuded a sense of perpetual loneliness, but since he started dating Spore, this had been muted. But right now, it radiated off him like heat from an oven.

“Oh, hon, I’m so sorry,” Insight replied sympathetically as she herself became overwhelmed with that feeling of heartache. “But if you decide you want to talk about it…”

Carl stood in place for a few seconds and stared at the ground. Finally, he muttered a hollow “Thanks” and continued along his way, up the stairs, and towards his room. And with the towel she had been holding, Insight wiped her eyes and went back inside the kitchen, wishing Carl would just let her in for once.

As Carl neared his bedroom door, he heard a squeaky voice behind him before he could reach for the doorknob.

“Hey, Carl!”

“What’s good, little man?” Carl asked unenthusiastically as he barely turned his head to face his younger brother.

“Do you wanna go to the comic shop with me?”

“Yeah, not today, buddy. Sorry,” Carl replied as he turned back towards his door, went in, and slammed it shut.

“Okay,” Mesmer murmured to himself before walking downstairs and in to the kitchen.

Having overhead the discussion, Insight kindly told her son, “I can take you a little later, hon.”

“It’s okay, mom.”

“You sure, sweetie?”

“Yeah. Thanks, mom.”

Giving her son a weak smile, she added, “I’m glad you didn’t use your powers to force him to go.”

“I didn’t wanna have to force him,” Mesmer whispered as he opened the refrigerator door and took out a gallon of milk.

Insight looked on as her youngest poured himself a glass of 2% and sipped it half-heartedly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Carl was able to exercise enough self-restraint to go all of Saturday without contacting Spore, despite every waking moment being filled with thoughts of her, and by Sunday morning, teenage melodrama had fully sunk its claws in to Carl and had no intentions of letting go.

What am I going to do? How am I ever gonna find someone like her again? I won’t. If I don’t have her, I’ll have no one. I’m losing her. I need to get her back before it’s too late. If I don’t have her, I’ll never have anyone again. No one like her. She’s perfect.

As he laid sprawled out on his bed, Carl jerked his head up and looked at the calendar pinned to his wall. “How the hell long is ‘a few days’ supposed to be?” he asked himself out loud.

He grasped his phone firmly in his right hand; every time it vibrated, his held his breath for a moment until he saw if it was her or not.

True to her word, Spore remained silent.

That weekend had marked the first time since becoming ‘official’ that they had gone the span of an entire day without speaking. Carl couldn’t help but wonder if she realized this like he did, and he couldn’t help but wonder if it bothered her as much as it bothered him.

While he was in the midst of drowning himself in in melancholy and misery, a sudden succession of booming knocks on his door brought him back to his senses.

*thunk* *thunk* *thunk*

“Carl, you in there?”

“What is it, ‘Ris!”

“Can I borrow your car?”

“Take mom’s!”

“She’s out! Let me borrow it; I need to go to the library.”

“I might go somewhere later; take the bus,” he answered back, blatantly lying, just not being in a generous mood.

“Are you serious! You might go somewhere? What the hell kind of shit is that!”

“Go away, ‘Ris!”

“Nice to know getting dumped turned you in to an even bigger ass than usual!”

“She didn’t dump me! We’re on a break!”

“Yeah, uh-huh,” she sneered back. Then taking a moment, she flashed a quick glimpse through her brother’s wooden bedroom door to see if she could spot the keys. The first and only thing she was able to focus on, however, was the pained expression in his face.

She hesitated for a moment, deciding to pick her words carefully as the faintest echo of her own former love blew in and out of her thoughts. With an entirely changed tone, she replied softly, “It’ll make you stronger, baby brother. And it gets easier. I promise.”

“Just go away,” he answered, his voice heavy with exhaustion.

Iris walked away as her brother asked while Carl continued wallowing in his room, his depression now even worse after bickering with his sister. Her words made it sound like things were already over.

They’re not. I’ll prove it, Carl thought, and in a moment of weakness, he brought his phone to his face and sent out a simple ‘Hey’ to his estranged girlfriend.

The minutes felt like hours until he received a response back. And when she finally did respond, it was a succinct ‘Hi.’

‘How r u?’ Carl typed back eagerly.

Her response: ‘I thought we agreed not to talk for a few days?’

Carl grimaced. I guess she’s not too bothered after all.

‘I know,’ he typed in to his phone, ‘but I just wanted to see how u are.’

‘I’m fine. U?’ she responded tersely.

‘Good,’ he said, his second barefaced lie of the day.

Spore felt it best to leave the conversation at that as Carl foolishly waited for a text back.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On that bitter Monday morning in late January, Carl couldn’t remember a time where he felt like going to school less, and considering his high school career thus far, that was saying a lot. His legs, which inexplicably used to feel full of jelly at the thought of Spore, now felt of lead, as if his body were rejecting the act of walking through the school entrance and seeing her that day.

“What am I going to do in Enviro, man?” he whined to El as the two sat in homeroom.

“Listen, she said for you guys to keep your distance, so do just that. Yeah, I know it’s gonna suck, but show her you can be a man about it. Pretend like you don’t really care. Act like everything’s fine. She’ll be upset that you’re doing so well without her. By tomorrow, she’ll call off the break. Trust me. Make her think that you don’t need her, and she’ll want to prove otherwise.”

Carl didn’t respond with words, just a quiet grunt of acknowledgement.

“And thankfully we’re picking new lab partners today,” El continued. “Ock can be yours this semester, and he’s more than capable of keeping you preoccupied.”

“You’re not gonna be partners with me?” Carl asked, irked.

“I already told Glacier that I’d be hers. Plus…”

“Plus you wanna fuck her.”

“I wanna fuck her, that’s correct.”

“You’re a good friend.”

“I already promised her, like, a month ago, and it’s not like Ock isn’t your friend. You know that I’m always here any time you need me, except for 45 minutes every sixth day when we have lab.”

“Yeah…yeah, I know. Thanks.”

*riiiiiiiing*

“Any time, man. And it’ll be alright. Chin up, okay?”

“Yeah…chin up,” Carl repeated quietly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The first day of the new semester was not unlike the first day of the year: Teachers discussed their syllabi and what was expected of the class, seats were assigned, and, in the case of gym class, students were able to choose which unit they’d prefer to be in.

“Alright, everyone, you know the drill,” Mr. Woods called out to the dozens of students seated in the bleachers. “Form a line and pick a sport; it’s all indoor activities for the next couple months, so you have volleyball, badminton, mat sports, and cooperative learning to choose from. As always, it’s first come, first serve, so get to it.”

The students all got in line, and Carl, who normally waited until after Wing picked his elective, paid no attention this time around; his mind, understandably enough, had been elsewhere all day.

Jotting his name down for ‘mat sports’ (Whatever the hell that means, he thought to himself, uncaringly), Carl dragged himself back on to the bleachers to stew in his depression.

Wing, ever observant, was sure to take note of what unit Carl signed up for. Wing had no compulsions to not be in Carl’s class. And Wing knew full well what ‘mat sports’ entailed as he wrote his name on the same sheet Carl had written his moments ago.

Walking up the bleachers and past Carl, Wing, with a smile akin to that of the Cheshire Cat, simply stated, “See you for dodgeball, Imp.”

Carl shut his eyes and angrily shook his head, partially blaming Spore for distracting him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When the bell for the second-to-last period rang, Carl felt dread drape over him like a heavy wool blanket. Going to this class was the last thing in the world he wanted right now.

He walked in to A142, and he noticed that, as usual, Spore wasn’t there yet. He sat in his normal seat and just waited.

Although he tried forcing himself not to, every time he heard the door open, his head would immediately shoot to the left like a dog who saw a stray animal on his master’s lawn. And when the inevitable moment occurred where Spore walked in to class, she caught eyes with Carl for only a moment. Hastily looking away, she continued walking to the other side of the room to sit next to Decibel.

Carl’s mind once again wandered back to the happier times he longed for.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two months ago:

“Happy two months, sweetie.”

“Happy two months, cutie.”

They both then took a sip from their glasses; hers filled with iced green tea and his with Dr. Pepper.

“I got you something,” he said as he pulled a small white box out of his pocket and placed in gently in to her eager hands.

“Aw, you didn’t have to.”

“Really? Alright, I’ll take it back,” he joked as he reached for the box he had just given her.

“No! Mine now!” she exclaimed with a playful smile, bringing the box to her chest. Opening it up, her smile broadened ever more. He had gotten her a necklace with a golden shamrock pendant.

“I remember you saying something up liking plants, right?”

She smiled back at him, “It’s beautiful. Thank you, Carl.”

“It’s the best I could do on a bus boy’s salary, but I’m glad you like it.”

Looking at him with those big brown eyes and through her black-framed glasses, she replied, “I love it.”

“Here,” he said, gesturing that he wanted her to hand him back the necklace, “let me put it on you.”

She handed it back to him, and he carefully unclasped it as she leaned her head forward for him to fasten it around her neck. Before she could lean her head back, he gave her a soft, tender kiss on the lips.

“You can be sweet sometimes, you know that?” she said.

“Just don’t tell anybody. I got a rep to maintain.”

“Oh, yeah. I’m sure the guys at the comic book shop would be mortified to hear that you kissed a girl. Isn’t that against nerd law?”

“You just think you’re so funny, don’t you?”

She shrugged her shoulders and beamed, “Yep!”

“So you’re okay that we went here, right?” Carl asked, changing the subject of the conversation.

“Oh,” she said, “yeah, no, it’s…it’s fine. That other place was probably too expensive anyway.”

“Yeah, plus I looked online, and the menu was kinda crappy. What the hell is baba ghanoush anyway?”

She let out of a smirk and said reassuringly, “It’s fine. Friday’s is…” she paused for a moment and looked around the restaurant, seeing the pin-striped servers, tacky memorabilia gracing the walls, and overweight patrons ignoring their screaming children.

“…it’s kind of our place, I suppose.”

“Exactly,” he replied, not picking up on the mild disappointment in her voice that she tried to hide.

“Thank you again for the necklace, Carl. It’s beautiful. And you really didn’t have to.”

“Anything for you, sweetie.”

Spore smiled at him and took another sip of her tea.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When class eventually started, Doc Drain instructed the students to do as they had done months ago and pick a lab partner for the remainder of the year. “No pressure,” he added as he had done before.

As discussed, El partnered with Glacier Green, while Carl paired up with Octane, and Spore with Decibel. After a few minutes had passed, Doc Drain indicated for the students to take to their seats as the day’s lesson was about to begin.

With his left arm propped on his desk, Carl rested his head on his fist as Doc Drain’s words breezed past him, only managing to catch a stray one here and there as he was lost in his own thoughts, trying to mend his fractured relationship.

El’s gonna bitch me out about it, but I gotta talk to her after class. Just remind her of the good times. Stir up some feelings that she has to still have, and she’ll realize how much she missed me and how stupid this whole thing is.

“…natural selection…”

And yeah, fine, she’s upset that I never do anything that she wants to do. She feels neglected or something. Alright, so from now on, we do everything she wants to. Problem solved.

“…extinction…”

There. Figured out what I want and what I need to do. Took all of five minutes. If that doesn’t work then…

“…evolution. Mr. Freeman?”

“Huh?” Carl replied, snapping out of his daze.

“Am I boring you, Mr. Freeman?”

“No, sorry, I just…”

“Do pay attention. You won’t have Ms. Summers as your partner to rely on this semester.”

Doc Drain’s words were a knife in Carl’s heart. He closed his eyes, looked down, and forced himself to mutter a simple “Sorry, sir.”

Spore looked sympathetically at Carl. The last thing she ever wanted was to see him hurt.

Waiting until the teacher’s eyes were diverted from his direction, Carl discretely held his phone underneath his desk and typed out a message to Spore.

‘Can we talk after class?’

Carl could hear the faint *bzzz* *bzzz* from all the way across the classroom. He didn’t turn her way; instead, he focused with his peripheral vision to try and catch her reaction.

Her noticeable exasperation didn’t fill Carl with much joy, but as she turned to look at him, her reserved head nod gave him a pang of false hope.

Despite El’s objections, Carl waited for Spore in the hallway outside of A142. As she exited, she approached him with trepidation; she didn’t want to say anything to the boy to hurt him anymore than he already was.

“Hey,” she said.

“Just like old times, right? Talkin’ outside here.”

“Carl…” she started.

“I miss you. And I don’t like not talking to you.”

“I don’t like it, either. I really don’t, and I’m not just saying that. But I said we need to take a few days to figure things out.”

Carl was quiet for a moment then stated, “I have figured it out.”

To Carl’s surprise, this visibly irritated Spore, who responded, “Have you? In three days, you’ve figured everything out?”

“From now on, we can go to that one restaurant you wanted to go to, and then I’ll go out and rent you whatever movie you want. All that stuff. Whatever you want. I promise. Okay, sweetie?”

“You don’t get it, Carl. You’re looking at the surface problems and not the deeper ones.”

“I…”

“Please, I need time. We both need time. Give me some space, okay? Just like a week or two.”

Carl was silent.

She began to walk away, but stopped herself to add, “And please don’t text me. I won’t respond.”

She slowly turned her head back and continued on.

As Carl watched her wander from him, he noticed her neck was bare.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


TO BE CONTINUED


Teen drama and high school go together like hamburgers and French fries, but as common as it is, that doesn’t make it suck any less, does it? We’ve all been there: Angst, depression, heartache. Fun times, right? Got a story of high school to share? Post it on my Facebook page or shoot me a tweet. Or even if you have a random compliment, complaint, suggestion, or criticism, I’m all ears. I’m especially interested in knowing if the extra week was worth the wait.

As always, thanks for reading. See you in a week (I promise this time).





Empowered: Act 2, Part 2

Empowered: Act 2, Part 2



It’s everyone’s favorite time of the week as Carl, El, Spore, Octane, and the rest return for the newest installment of Empowered! As our favorite non-powered mutant enjoys the wonders of having a girlfriend (read: sex), he now has to learn that no relationship is without its drama. We do a bit of a time jump here because no one wants to read about the lovey-dovey honeymoon period. I actually did have that whole section outlined (there would’ve been obnoxious texts back in forth with the word “boo” thrown around a lot; I’m sure you’re all glad it did’t come to that). Act 2 is very much inspired by (500) Days of Summer, so if you’re a fan of that movie, you might just enjoy this a bit more. That said, I proudly present to you Empowered: Act 2, Part 2!


“Are you happy with us, Carl?” Spore asked hesitantly in to her phone on a chilly Friday night in January.

Carl had noticed that Spore had been acting strangely for the past few weeks, but he had thought nothing of it up until this point. Now nervous, Carl replied in to his phone, “I am. Why? Aren’t you?”

Spore’s reticence was louder than anything she could have said.

“Spore?”

“I dunno…” she said softly.

“Baby…”

Spore let out a quiet *sniff* and replied, “I just…it sometimes feels like we don’t understand each other. And I just feel like we want different things sometimes.”

Her voice was equal parts sad and sweet.

“Like what, baby?”

She hesitated a moment before once again saying, “I dunno…” Letting out another *sniff*, she then continued, “I’ve just been feeling lately that my heart hasn’t been in all the way. It’s hard to just put in to words. I’m sorry, baby.”

“So what now?” Carl asked, the sorrow in his voice now mirroring hers.

“I think we need to go on a break.”

At these words, Carl’s heart felt as it had been replaced by a stone which then dropped in to his stomach.

“I don’t get it. Things have been going so well.”

“Baby, you not noticing that things have been going well is why we need to take some time apart. We need to, like…think things over, you know?”

“But…” Carl started, not sure how to go forward with what he wanted to say. “But I don’t want to.”

“You always do this…” Spore answered, her voice changing from forlorn to mildly annoyed accompanied at his comment.

“Do what?”

“You put yourself first.”

“Are you serious? I spend all my time with you!”

“But we spend that time doing what you want to do.”

“That’s not…”

“When I wanted to go to that art show, who went with me? My sister. When I wanted to try out that new vegan restaurant, where’d we end up going? T.G.I. Friday’s. Remember when I asked you to rent The Notebook and you came back with The Transporter?”

“I misheard you…”

“They sound nothing alike!”

“Alright, listen. Listen. I’m sorry, baby. For everything. Okay? I promise to be better.”

“I just…” she paused for a moment to be certain of her words, “I just think we need to take some time to figure out what we want and who we need to be in this relationship.”

Carl was silent for a moment. Any self-confidence he had gained over the past four months of being with her was beginning to crumble down before him.

“Does this have anything to do with me being…different?”

“What? No! How could you even think that! How could you even think that I’d think that!”

“I’m just sayin’, if it is, and you want like a ‘real man’…”

“I don’t know what to say to you sometimes. Listen, let’s not talk for a few days, okay?” She then echoed her sentiment from earlier. “We need to take some time to figure out what we want.”

Carl didn’t respond. He knew what he wanted.

“I’ll talk to you later, okay? I guess for now, we’ll just keep our distance in class. Do you understand?”

“Whatever,” he said in a low, angry voice.

“I’m sorry. Bye, baby.”

“Yeah. Bye.”

*click*

“Bitch,” he muttered to himself as he stared at his phone.

Put myself first…sorry I don’t wanna go to a stupid vegan restaurant. Sorry I don’t wanna watch a dumbass movie about a dude mailing letters and building a house. Sorry I don’t wanna stand around and look at paintings all damn day. Yeah, I’m a real asshole. Guess she forgot about the money I spent on dinners, how much it cost me in gas driving her all around town, the necklace I bought her…

Carl plopped down in to his desk chair and hunched forward. In frustration, he began rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands. Once he stopped, he tilted his head back and stared at the ceiling. He then closed his eyes, and without warning, a memory of time’s past crawled its way in to his mind.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Three months ago:

“Happy one-month anniversary,” Carl said to Spore as they stood in his room.

“Aw, you keep track. Such a softie.”

“Psh, no way. I just realized, like, fifteen minutes ago.”

“Uh-huh,” she said with an incredulous smile.

“I’m really lucky to have you,” he said, shifting to a more serious tone.

“Carl…” she said, her voice drawn out. “You’re too nice to me.”

“Well, you let me touch your boobs, so…”

Faking irritation, she responded and covered her chest, “Hmf, I’m more than just my boobs, Mr. Freeman!”

“Really? I wouldn’t say so.”

Playfully, she let out a whimper and sad frown at this.

“Such a cutie,” he said as he came up and held her by the waist.

“I like you a lot,” she said in a soft voice, looking in to his eyes.

“I like you, too,” he returned.

Their hearts beat in rapid unison as they both leaned their heads to their right and shared a delicate kiss.

Pulling away after about thirty seconds, he said, “So, I have a big night planned for us tonight.”

“Is that so?”

“It is,” he said with a nod. “Pizza and chip ‘n’ putt at the golf course.”

Putting her hand to her chest, Spore gasped speciously, “Oh, Carl Freeman, you can really sweep a girl off her feet when you want to.”

“I know,” he laughed. “I surprise myself sometimes.”

“Are you going to ‘let me win’ again?”

“Hey, I have crappy depth perception. Plus, I’m pretty sure I saw the grass move the ball forward more than once.”

Spore smiled and shrugged, “I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.” Changing the subject, she then stated, “Oh, also, I was thinking, maybe we can go to that art show I was telling you about tomorrow.”

“Oh, yeah…I mean, I would, but you’d probably have more fun with your sister, wouldn’t you? I mean,” he then laughed, “I’d probably just complain the whole time anyway.”

Masking her disappointment, she decided to feign agreement. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I haven’t seen much of her lately anyway, I suppose.”

“See? Everyone wins.”

“Yeah…yeah.”

Turning briefly to look at the clock on his wall, Carl then turned back and asked, “Ready to go, Ms. Summers?”

Smiling once more, she replied, “Always, Mr. Freeman.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Money for gas, a round of golf, pizza, and ice cream after, Carl thought, tallying the amount in his head. He opened his eyes and muttered to himself, “Yeah, I’m real selfish.”

Getting up out of his chair, he then laid down on his bed and attempted to mindlessly watch television, hoping to sever the thoughts of Spore for the time being. But it was futile; a swirl of emotions filled every inch of his body and showed no sign of leaving any time soon.

Deciding to give El a call, he grabbed for his phone and held it above his face. As he remained flat on his bed, he began furiously pressing away.

After four rings, El simply answered, “Yo, what’s up?”

“Nothin’, you?”

“Nothing,” he returned.

Five seconds of silence dragged by, forcing El to once again ask, “Alright, so what’s up?”

“What are you up to?”

“Why? Aren’t you hanging out with Spore?”

“We, uh…we got in to a fight, sort of,” Carl mumbled.

“Oh, and I get to be your Plan B. Sweet,” El remarked sarcastically.

“Come on, man. You know it’s not like that.”

“What’s it like then? You’ve been a ghost these past few months.”

Carl was quiet, unsure of how to defend himself.

With a sigh, El once again broke the silence. “Yeah. Come on over. I wasn’t doing anything anyway.”

“Alright, sweet. I’ll be there in like fifteen. See you soon.”

“Yeah, see ya.”

While Carl hung up the phone on his end, a few miles away, El was switching back to the cute blonde he had on hold.

“Hey, Vector, sorry about that. Um, so about tonight…”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“And then she tells me that I always put myself first!” Carl said as he paced around El’s room in a huff as El laid face up on his bed.

The room, with four forest green walls and a light gray ceiling, was adorned with a sleek, black wooden desk; upon it were the latest model MacBook Pro and a framed picture of El with his parents. Up against the adjacent wall was a cabinet filled with trophies from playing football and lacrosse, medals from various science fair competitions, and a National Honors Society certificate.

“Uh-huh” was El’s contribution to Carl’s rant as he focused intently on a foam football he had been throwing up in to the air and catching.

“And I’m like, what do you want from me? I treat you well. I care for you. I’m always there for you. What else can I do?”

“Yeah,” he added, still throwing the football.

“It’s ridiculous! I spend so much time with her, and yet that’s not good enough. She’s the selfish one!”

“Sure is.”

“Fuckin’ women, man.”

“Seriously.”

“Think I should text her?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Why?”

Finally sitting up, El responded, “Well, first of all, because she told you that you two shouldn’t talk for a few days. Second of all, it’ll make you look pathetic. It’s been, what, two hours?”

“Yeah, but…”

“No.”

“But she has to know I’m thinking about her.”

“I’m sure she does, man. And I’m sure she’s thinking about you, too. But she said she needs space. Give it to her.”

Carl let out a heavy, angry sigh. “This sucks.”

“I know, bruddha. You’ll be alright, though. Trust me.”

“I wonder what she’s doing right now,” he said with his head in his lap as he plopped down in to El’s desk chair.

“Just don’t think about it, bud. Come on; let’s get your mind off it. Wanna go bowling or something?”

“Spore and I used to go bowling,” Carl whimpered.

“Movies?”

“We were supposed to see a movie tonight. She always liked going to the movies,” Carl added, his tone dripping with self-pity.

“Okay,” El sighed. “What’s something you two didn’t do together?”

“I don’t know,” Carl muttered.

“Well, I could cum for you. I’m willing to bet she never did that.”

“Fucked up, man,” Carl replied, his speech muffled by his lap.

“Too soon? Too soon. Okay, what else…”

“Are you sure I shouldn’t text her?” he asked, picking his head up. “What if I said…”

“Yes I’m sure! Now, come on. I actually just remembered that Yawn is having people over tonight. We’ll go there, play some pool, and just shoot the shit. How’s that sound?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Carl replied, knowing he had no other options besides being alone.

“Sweet. I’ll drive.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As the two traveled down the road in El’s Jeep Wrangler, it was clear to El that Carl’s disposition was changing from anger to depression at an exponential rate. Attempting to get Carl’s mind on to something else, he tried to throw out any topic of conversation he could think of.

“Alright, man, better game: Final Fantasy VII or Ocarina of Time?”

Disinterested, Carl responded, “I don’t know.”

“I gotta go Ocarina. It’s just about as perfect as a game could be, ya know? Except for that fucking owl. Plus, I don’t really like role-playing games, so I never understood the hype around Final Fantasy.”

Looking over, El saw Carl staring melancholically out the window, barely listening to what he had to say.

“That’s a weird term, isn’t it? ‘Role-playing game’? I mean, in what game don’t you play a role, right?”

“Yeah,” Carl said, now thinking that maybe being alone would’ve been the better option. The last thing he wanted right now was to be around people who were happy and having fun.

“So anyway, I was reading this physics article online, and there’s this theory on infinite universes where any reality that could possibly exist does exist,” El said as he pulled in to Yawn’s driveway.

“Okay?” Carl responded as the two got out of the car.

“What I’m saying is, that means there’s a universe out there where, right now, you’re fucking eighteen supermodels, if it makes you feel any better about things.”

“I’d rather be in the universe where I wasn’t on this damn break.”

“Well, that’s just silly. A universe where you fuck eighteen supermodels, and you choose that one,” El replied as he rang Yawn’s doorbell. Within moments, the stocky, well-built Indian boy answered the door.

“Hey, guys!” Yawn exclaimed, happy to see the pair. “Glad you came. Everyone’s downstairs; make yourselves comfortable. You want anything to eat or drink, just let me know. Parents are gone for the week, so help yourself to a beer or six.”

The two thanked Yawn and went in to his professionally finished basement where Brainstorm, Hourglass, and others were watching TV, playing drinking games, laughing, flirting, and having a good time. Shortly after Carl and El showed up, Octane and his girlfriend, Blitz, arrived.

“Yo-yo-yo, guys. What’s happening? Big C, where’s Spore at?”

“She, uh…” Carl looked at the ground, downcast.

“She’s sick,” El finished, not wanting Carl’s misery to become the focus of the night. “Apple scab or something. Right, Carl?”

“Yeah. Sick.”

“Ah, bummer. You-you-you guys wanna play us in pool?” Octane asked, gesturing to the finely finished oaken billiards table.

“Absolutely we do,” El said, answering for the both of them. “Come on, let’s show these jabronies how we run shit.”

“Sweet, I’ll rack ‘em,” Octane replied as he and Blitz walked to the table.

Whispering to Carl, El asked, “You feeling better?”

“Feelin’ as good as I’m gonna, I guess.”

“What are you funboys whispering about?” Octane yelled, having already finished racking. “Come on; we need to shoot to see who goes first.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As the four played, Carl noticed Octane’s interactions with Blitz. In between turns, she would go over and tickle him, using her electric powers as she did so to make his long, chestnut brown hair stand up on end. And every time he went to make his shot, she’d playfully give him a shock with a poke of her finger.

“We’re on the same team, you goof!” Octane would reply jovially. “You’re going to make me miss!”

The skinny brunette smiled and replied, “Crap! Losing at basement pool. My parents will, like, totally disown me.”

As he saw Octane and Blitz banter back and forth, Carl found it impossible to not have his mind shoot back to Spore. He was then hit with a rush of dread: What if he and Spore will never again joke like that, laugh like that, or touch that? Carl became lost in his own sad, depressing thoughts as the reality of their break set in, but Blitz managed to break him from his self-imposed trance.

“You’re up, Carl,” she said, smiling at Carl and handing him the pool cue.

Lacking even the slightest amount of enthusiasm, Carl barely took a second to line up his shot and completely missed on the 7-ball that was teetering on the edge of the front left corner pocket.

“Gotta be more careful, big C,” Octane replied as he took the cue from Carl’s hands. He then began zipping around the table, sinking shot after shot as he did.

*zip* 10-ball in the back right corner pocket.

*zip* 15-ball in the left side pocket.

*zip* 12-ball in back left corner pocket.

*zip* 8-ball in the front right corner pocket.

“Tha-tha-that’s game. Re-rack?”

“Nah,” Carl said, “I think I’m good. El, you tryin’ to head out?”

Looking at his watch and seeing that they had barely been there for an hour, El lied and said, “Yeah, I’m…I’m pretty tired actually.”

“Ah, come on, guys! Stay! We just got here.”

El looked over at Carl to see if his mood at all changed. It hadn’t.

“Nah, it’s been a day,” El answered. “Ready, bud?”

“Yeah. I’ll see you guys later,” Carl mumbled. He then went up the stairs and outside without saying a word to anyone else.

“Is-is-is he alright, El?” Octane asked.

El exhaled and looked down. “He’s fine. Just going through some stuff is all.”

Giving a disappointed nod, Octane replied, “Word. Alright, bro, I’ll talk to you later.”

“Later, man. Later, Blitz,” El replied.

“Bye! Tell Carl I hope he feels better!”

El smiled a little and replied, “Sure thing.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The drive back to El’s house was painfully quiet, and despite knowing what the answer would be, El eventually asked, “You have a good time?”

“It was aight,” Carl muttered unconvincingly.

“Take your mind off her at all?”

“Not really, man.”

“Just remember you guys aren’t broken up, alright? You’re just taking some time off. Don’t sweat it. Just give her what she needs to figure out it all out, and it’ll be fine. I promise.”

“You really think?” Carl asked, his voice filled with sad hope.

“Yeah, man. Absolutely.”

“Appreciate it, El.”

“No worries,” he replied as he pulled up next to Carl’s car. “Give me a call tomorrow if you wanna do something, alright?”

“Thanks. Think I’m just gonna lay low, though.”

“I hear ya, boss. Feel better, okay?”

“Will do,” Carl said as he opened the passenger side door. “Later, man.”

“Later, bud.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Carl drove home in silence; he tried forcing himself to think of nothing, but the dull ache of despair was a constant reminder of the girl he was losing.

In his depression, he didn’t bother with brushing his teeth and washing his face after coming home; he instead just decided to crawl underneath the covers of his bed.

He didn’t want to lose her. He couldn’t lose her. The past few months had made Carl feel special for once in his life. He felt as if he could do anything; he felt as if he could be anything. With Spore, he never felt helpless or handicapped. She made him feel strong. She made him feel invincible. And now, he was facing the possibility that that feeling would be gone forever.

He didn’t want her to go.

He didn’t want to lose that feeling.

He didn’t want to be powerless again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


TO BE CONTINUED


Poor, poor Carl. With first love comes first heartbreak. Do you agree that he was selfish? Is Spore overreacting? And do you think they should (or will) overcome this break? Thoughts, insights, criticisms, and comments of all kinds are more than welcome, so log on to Facebook and Twitter to share what you think! See you in a week for Part 3!





Empowered: Act 2, Part 1

Empowered: Act 2, Part 1



And we’re back! After needing a couple weeks to really get the start of Act 2 ready, I’m proud to present to you Act 2, Part 1 of Empowered. Have you been aching for a new post? I bet you have. It was goddamn selfish of me to deprive you all for so long, so let’s get this show on the road. Act 2 begins now!


Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap, Carl kept repeating in his head as he drove home from Spore’s house.

She actually kissed me. SHE kissed ME. El’s not gonna believe this. He’s never gonna let me hear the end of it, either.

Is that what a tongue in your mouth feels like? Why does it feel good? I never thought having someone’s tongue in my…

A sudden *hooooooonk* snapped Carl out of his daze as he nearly missed stopping at a four-way intersection.

“Oh, shit! Sorry!” he yelled, despite the fact the driver in the other vehicle was long gone at this point.

Putting the thought of nearly getting sideswiped by another car out of his mind as quickly as it had entered, Carl’s mind immediately flew back to what just happened. Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap. I need to call El.

Frantically parking the car in the driveway and slamming the door shut, he rushed in to the house, but before he could get very far, he was stopped by big sister Iris as she came out of the kitchen and in to the front hallway.

“How was your date, princess?” Iris asked as she held a plate of celery sticks with almond butter, the hallway being filled with a loud *crunch* noise as she bit in to them.

“It wasn’t a date. We were just studyin’,” Carl replied, clearly trying to break away from the conversation and make his way up the stairs.

Narrowing her eyes, a light green aura began to glow around them as she stared at Carl’s chest.

“Then why’s your heart beatin’ so fast?”

Turning around to see what she was doing, Carl noticed her eyes and yelled, “I told you to stop using x-ray vision on me! You’re gonna friggin’ give me cancer!”

“Fine,” she replied as the green aura turned crimson, indicating infrared vision. With a self-satisfied grin, she then commented, “Your body temperature is goin’ wild. What exactly went on at your little friend’s house?”

“None of your business, Ris! Ain’t you got your own shit to deal with that you don’t have to butt in to mine?” he moaned as he once again began hopping up the stairs.

There was another loud *crunch* as she bit in to a celery stick. “She’s gonna break your heart.”

“What?” he asked, stopping on the stairs once more.

“Just don’t be surprised,” she answered in a very matter-of-fact way as she wiped almond butter off her bottom lip.

“Wow, you’re bein’ kind of a bitch right now, aren’t you?”

“I’m bein’ the complete opposite. I wish someone woulda told me this when I was your age. First love or whatever, someone’s gettin’ their heart broke. And you ain’t no heartbreaker, baby brother, so…”

“ ‘First love’? What the hell are you even talkin’ about? All we did was study.”

*crunch* “Uh-huh. Just be careful. High school girls can be bitches. I know from experience.”

“Yeah, whatever, thanks for readin’ way too in to something that ain’t there,” Carl said with a slight hiss as he finished jogging up the staircase.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” she muttered to herself as she walked back in to the kitchen.

“Thinks she sees so much,” Carl mumbled under his breath as he walked to his room. “Her and Mesmer always fuckin’ with me. They need to cut that shit out.”

Trying to forget the conversation he just had, Carl ripped his phone out his pocket and began furiously scrolled through his contacts for El’s number. He had the number within seconds, and he anxiously tapped his foot as the phone rang.

“Ye-oh! What’s up?” El asked enthusiastically from the other end of the phone.

“I kissed her,” Carl said immediately.

“You…really? Awesome! So awesome!” El gushed, his enthusiasm almost matching Carl’s.

“Yeah, well, I mean, she actually kissed me, but…”

“Still counts. You’re a pussy for not going for it first, but it still counts. You touch her tits?”

“What? No. I barely knew what to do with my mouth. You think I know what the fuck to do with a bra?”

“Yeah, I just rip it off. Saves me the hassle.”

“Yeah, well, in my case, no tits. We just made out for, like, a half hour.”

“Ni-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ice.”

“Yeah, man. It was…it was awesome.”

“Happy for you, bud. Just don’t act all weird around her tomorrow now.”

“…huh,” Carl replied pensively. He hadn’t even considered what would happen when he saw her again.

Immediately, he was hit by a wave of self-doubt and uncertainty. El assured him it’d be fine a minute later before hanging up and heading off to bed. The words, however, rolled right off Carl as he dove in to an ocean of recurring questions that he had no idea how to answer:

What do I say to her? Do I say anything? Maybe I’ll wait until she says something to me. But would she say something? I don’t know. I don’t see why she wouldn’t. But maybe she’s asking herself why wouldn’t I say something to her. Shit, should I text her? Maybe if I text her, it’ll seem less weird when I do see her. No, don’t text her. Play it cool. She always gets to class after you, so just give her a head nod as she walks in. Yeah, that’ll wo—

“Hey, Carl!” Spore said to him as she walked in to class and past Carl, textbook close against her chest.

What the fuck? Carl thought, flummoxed. Everything had been a blur since the night before, and it was like his body had been on autopilot the entire day. He hadn’t even realized that he was already in Enviro.

“Hi, hey, yeah!” Carl called out to her after needing two seconds to process what had just happened.

Fuck.

Looking over to catch a quick glimpse of the girl, she smiled and offered him a soft, delicate wave before turning and talking with Decibel.

As Doc Drain croaked out that day’s lesson, he was sure to remind the students of the upcoming test. Carl, however, paid no mind to what the teacher was saying and instead was trying to formulate his plan of attack for talking to Spore after class.

When the bell finally rung, and on the advice of El and Octane, Carl waited for her just outside the doorway. As he saw her approach with Decibel, his chest immediately tightened with anxiety, but he forced himself to produce a slight wave and half smile as the two of them locked eyes.

“Oh, hey!” she exclaimed, surprised to see Carl outside the door. Turning to Decibel, she said, “Talk to you tomorrow, Dez!”

Now turning back towards Carl, she responded, “Hey. Sorry about that.”

“It’s cool.” He then paused for a moment as he looked in to her eyes. “I had a really nice time with you last night.”

“Me, too! I think with my help you might actually pass now.”

“Hey, you were a good study partner, but you weren’t that good,” he quipped, self-mockingly.

“I wasn’t?” she said, cocking her head a bit and giving Carl and devious look.

“I…uh…I meant…”

She laughed at his hesitance and responded, “Well, I thought you were very good at studying.”

“Thanks, I…study with my pillow in bed sometimes. It’s good practice.”

Spore giggled and replied, “Well, I’m jealous of your pillow.”

Carl laughed nervously, unsure of what to say.

“I hope we…um…could study again soon,” he responded.

“I’d like that a lot,” she said, smiling. “Maybe this weekend?”

“Yeah!” Carl exclaimed. Then trying to hide his excitement, he repeated in a much more reserved manner, “Yeah. That’d be cool.”

“Cool! I gotta head to the computer lab now,” she said, pointing in the opposite direction Carl was going. “So I’ll talk to you tomorrow?”

“No doubt. Have a good one.”

“You, too! Bye!”

“Later,” he replied in a pretend aloofness.

“Like a boss,” El said, coming out from behind the classroom door where he had been busy eavesdropping. “Date #2, huh?”

“Ha, yeah. Guess so.”

“Nice job, man. I just got one question for you.”

“What’s that?”

“What’d you name your pillow?”

“Ha, I was just kidding around with her,” Carl replied as he pushed open the exit door to the parking lot.

“Oh, I see what it is. You named it after me, didn’t you? It all makes so much sense now.”

“Ya got me. I’m in love with you, and dry humping my pillow at night is the only way I can express it.”

“We’ve graduated to dry humping now, have we? Goddamn, you’re a freak sometimes,” El joked as he unlocked his car. “Be sure to ease Spore in to that.”

“If I even end up hanging out with her again, anyway,” Carl responded, not wholly convinced a second date would happen. But as unbelievable as it seemed to him, Carl and Spore did end up seeing each other that weekend. And the weekend after. And the one after that as well.

Before either of them knew it, they had become a full-fledged couple. And by the time January came around, things had felt as if they were finally going Carl’s way. Much to his sister’s chagrin, he received his grandmother’s car for Christmas as promised; with Spore’s help, his grades improved; he got in to a decent college on early admission; and he even managed to not have any of his gym electives line up with Wing’s, successfully avoiding him for the first half of the year.

But what really made the past four months feel special was the girl he had fallen for. Spore was his first kiss, his first girlfriend…his first everything.

El had been sure to make the obvious ‘de-flower’ jokes.

And the ‘cross-pollination’ jokes.

And the ‘planting the seed’ jokes.

Carl dating a girl named ‘Spore’ really opened up a lot of doors for El.

But regardless of El’s comments, Spore made Carl happier than he ever thought possible. Thinking about her made his knees feel as if they were full of jelly; his heart would flutter when he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket and instinctively knew it was she. There were video chats that went late in to the night, text messages first thing in the morning, pet names that Carl prayed his friends would never find out about, and tender handholding as the two traveled together down the hallways together.

It was the stage of dating where each party thinks that there’s no possible way they’d ever fight. What could there ever be to fight about?

We’re perfect together, Carl would think.

She’s my soul mate.

She’s my destiny.

Indeed, Carl was soaring. But like the *swish* and *thunk* noises he knew all too well, what goes up, invariably, must come down.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


TO BE CONTINUED


If you all haven’t figured out by now (and especially by reading Wood You Be Mine?), I’m a big fan of dramatic irony. The audience knowing something that the characters don’t…f’ing with the characters like that is enjoyable to me. I guess I’m a sadist.

Anywho, shoot me a message what you think of Act 2 Your thoughts are always much appreciated, so get on to Facebook or Twitter to let me know. So you in a week!





Empowered: Act 1 Finale

Empowered: Act 1 Finale



Welcome all to the extra long wrap-up to Empowered, Act 1! It’s pretty nuts, but this act alone is longer than the entirety of Wood You Be Mine? Oddly enough, that story was more draining than this one (in a good way). Maybe because it was my first complete story? Not sure, but either way, I had a blast writing it, and I’m having even more fun writing this one. There’s been a steady stream of returning visitors to the site, and that makes the whole thing feel worth it. I’m happy to be reaching people with my writing, and I can only hope I’m living up to everyone’s expectation.

Alright, enough sappy shit. I present to you all now the epic finale to Empowered, Act 1!


The next few days went by with little consequence, as most school days tend to do, and Carl went through the motions, trying to skate by doing as little as possible, as most school students tend to do.

Today, however, was a different day. Today was lab day.

“You nervous? I’d be nervous if I were you. You nervous?” Octane asked repeatedly as the pair walked out of English.

“Nah, man. Just another day,” Carl stated, doing his best to sound aloof.

“You seem pretty dressed up for just another day,” Octane said with a laugh. “Those khakis?”

“Yeah, so what? I always wear these.”

“Tag’s still on ‘em, bro.”

“Are you…” Carl then looked behind himself and could clearly see the thin white piece of cardboard reading ‘GAP – 30/30’ dangling from the back pocket.

Octane let out a laugh, “Ya-ya-ya-ya-ya think ya got enough cologne on? Is she smell blind or something?”

“Eight spritzes was too much?”

“Nah, man. I’m sure she likes that bathed-in-Axe scent.”

“Fuck. Is it too late to wash it off?”

“Dude, dude, dude,” Octane said, stopping and putting his hands up in front of Carl in an attempt to calm him down. “Just be cool, and you’ll be aight.”

“ ‘Be cool, and you’ll be aight,’ ” Carl hollowly repeated. “Thanks, man. Solid advice.”

“Okay, okay, okay, fine. Don’t be a pussy. That better?”

“You know what? It’s easy for you to say. You already have a girlfriend.”

“And I got shot down by, like, nine other girls before I started dating her.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, man. And what do I care? A girl shots ya down, ya move on with your life and on to the next one.”

“Yeah, guess so,” Carl exhaled, not quite believing his own words. The two then got to their dividing point. “See ya in Enviro, alright?”

“See ya, man,” Octane replied as the two split off in to opposite directions.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Carl stared at the clock in his Government class that Friday afternoon, watching the time slowly melt away until the bell rung, signaling the end of the period. After it inevitably did, Carl trudged to class, unable to tell if he was excited or terrified – probably a little of both.

Pushing open the door to A142, Carl’s ears were immediately assaulted with the sounds of Canadian folk-pop that Doc Drain loved to play between his lessons. The teacher’s eyes were closed as he carelessly swayed his head back and forth to the beats of that fresh Ontario sound. A sight no one wanted to see, Carl then turned his head and caught a glimpse of Spore, who in turn noticed him.

A few days prior, she had begun sitting with a new friend of hers from the yearbook staff at the other end of the classroom. But as she and Carl caught each other’s attention, her bright brown eyes gleamed at him, and she then smiled wide and gently waved her hand from side to side.

Terrified. Definitely more terrified, he thought as he shot her an awkward smile and gave a quick, jittery wave in return before plunking down in his usual seat behind El.

The music continued to play as the students piled in to the classroom: “Who will save the river valley? Who will save the…”

*riiiiiiiing*

Much to everyone’s relief, Doc Drain then clicked off the CD player and, with a yawn, stated, “Okay, okay, everyone listen. As this is our first laboratory assignment, we are going to start things off at a slower pace.”

“He can move slower than this?” Octane whined with his head down on his desk.

“To my left,” he said, while slowly crossing his chest with his right arm to point to a stack of papers, “are your materials for our first lab exercise. We will be studying population density. Are there any questions so far? No? Fantastic. So you all have your partners. Please each of you grab a packet and retire to one of the lab tables. You have this entire period to work on it, and we will go over it in the next period.”

Carl walked up to the table, giving a slight sprint so he could get two packets at once, one for him and one for Spore, who he saw was bringing her materials to a table in the back left corner of the classroom.

Today, Spore was dressed in a pink and green floral sundress. Yesterday, it was a purple tank top with a thin gray cardigan and dark, tight jeans. The day before that had been another sundress, this one white with faint yellow stripes.

Carl acted like he didn’t notice such things as he walked towards her, packets in hand.

“Thanks!” she said as Carl handed her the worksheets. “You like nice today by the way. Big plans?”

“Nah,” he replied with a dismissive wave, “I dress like this all the time.”

She smiled and looked down, blushing.

“What’s up?” he asked, cockeyed.

She looked back up at him, her face pink with amusement. “The sticker’s still on the side.”

“Are you…” he murmured to himself as he once again turned to look at his own backside, only to find that a long, thin plastic strip running down the seam of his pants.

Seriously?

“Crap,” he muttered while ripping it off.

She laughed and said, “It’s okay. They make you look handsome if that makes you feel any better.”

Carl used all his strength to repress a smile.

“But I bet you hear that all the time.”

“Just from my mom,” he replied as he scratched the back of his head, half-joking, half-serious.

Laughing, she remarked, “Sounds like a sweet lady. But anyway, we should probably get started on this before Mr. Win—”

“Who will save the river valley?” began echoing throughout the room, cutting Spore off midsentence. Doc Drain once again began to sway his head back and forth with a placid smile on his face.

It was hard for the students to determine which was worse: The painful monotony of eight pages worth of fill-in-the-blank questions or having Canadian political satire music on loop for an entire period.

Doing all they could to block out the music, the students in class worked through the packet. Conferring with their partners, they used formulas and concepts that they had learned over the course of that week to best answer the questions. As the first period dwindled to a close, the bell rung, marking the five-minute break the students had between classes.

Neither Carl nor Spore felt the urge to get up during the break and instead the two made idle conversation with one another. She asked about his family, and he did the same. Here and there, he was able to pepper in a charming comment to bring a smile to her face. Something about Spore brought out a witty, enchanting side to him that even he didn’t know existed.

In what felt like no time, the bell rung once again, and the class spent the remainder of the day listening to Doc Drain drearily read off the answers.

All forty-two of them.

“…and the answer to #42 is…anyone? Anyone? It is ‘jellyfish.’ Once again, the answer to #42 is,” he paused for what seemed like no reason at all then finished, “ ‘jellyfish.’ Now, are there any questions?”

“Why, God, why?” Octane cried in his hands. For someone who’s used to moving at unbelievable speeds, this class was particularly painful for him.

“No? Then I see no harm in letting you out a few minutes earl—”

Octane was gone before Drain could finish his sentence.

“—ly.”

The classroom then filled with the noises of bags unzipping and zipping back up, papers being shuffled, and books being carelessly tossed around. At their lab station, Carl stuffed his materials in to his backpack, and Spore carefully placed everything in to hers.

“So, you know we have that test next week, right?” Spore asked rhetorically while fitting her arms in to the straps of her bag.

“Yeah,” Carl answered with a shake of his head. “Who gives a test in the first two weeks of class? Frickin’ ridiculous.”

“Ugh, I know! I can’t believe it. I’ll probably have to study all weekend,” she replied, the tone in her voice slightly indicative.

“Yeah, I hear that,” Carl responded with a mellow bob of his head.

“Ugh, and I’m so unmotivated, too, ya know?”

“Yeah, same,” he replied, blissfully ignorant.

El, who was one table over, managed to catch bits and pieces of the conversation. He nudged Octane, who had come back after realizing he had left all his things behind, and whispered something in to his ear.

In a brief moment when Spore looked away, Octane zipped to the right of Carl and relayed El’s message.

“Yo-asshole-El-says-she-wants-you-to-ask-her-to-study.”

Zipping back an eighth of a second before she looked back up, Spore smiled a sweet, albeit forced, smile and wished Carl to have a happy weekend.

“So, see you Monday, right?” she asked.

“Oh, I mean, yeah, but if you wanna, and you can…you can say no if you don’t wanna,” Carl spouted out nervously while scratching behind his right ear.

Squinting her eyes quizzically, she responded with a simple, “Um…what?”

Carl realized he, almost literally, had said nothing.

“I mean, like,” he began, and then looked down and cleared his throat, “if you want to, maybe we can study…together? I, uh, haha, I probably could use all the help I can get, ya know?”

“Sure! Sure, that’d be great,” she agreed, not trying to hide her elation. “Here, I’ll give you my number. Can I have your phone real quick?”

“Yeah, go for it,” he said, anxiously handing it over.

*click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click*

“Here you go,” she said, handing the phone back. “Text me tomorrow and we’ll figure something out.”

“Yeah, cool. Definitely.”

“Well,” she said with a smile, one she didn’t have to force, “see you this weekend hopefully.”

“Without a doubt. Talk to you.”

“Bye!”

And with that, Spore turned and walked out, slightly beaming. As she did, Carl took note of how gracefully she moved.

“And what do we have here, Mr. Freeman?” El said from behind as he and Octane walked towards Carl.

Turning around, Carl’s response to him was “El, man. I really don’t need you to do this crap for me.”

“Oh, please,” El said, rolling his eyes. “You were floundering like a…Ock, what flounders?”

“A flounder?”

“You were floundering like a flounder!”

“I don’t think…” Carl started before El cut him off.

“And did you get her number or not, hm?”

“Maybe…” Carl muttered.

“ ‘Thank you, Mr. Gray,’ ” El responded, wanting Carl to respond in kind.

Carl sighed, “Thank you, Mr. Gray.”

“You are very welcome. When you bone her, I want full details.”

Full details,” Octane said in agreement.

“We’re just studying; nothing’s gonna happen,” Carl said while examining his phone. He attempted to keep a cool composure but a tiny smirk betrayed him. And Octane, with a blinding swipe of his hand, snatched the phone from his grip.

“Aw, aw, aw, aw, aw,” he mocked as he turned the phone to El. “Look at this.”

“Awwww,” El said, joining in, “she put her name in as ‘Spore’ followed by a smiley face!”

“Doesn’t mean anything,” Carl said as he grabbed his phone back, slightly embarrassed.

“Dude!” That’s like the uh-uh-uh-uh,” Octane countered as he began snapping his fingers trying to find the right words, “the ‘I wanna fuck’ emoticon! You’re in there like swimwear.”

“I respectfully disagree, Octane,” El replied. “The winky face, now that’s the ‘I wanna fuck’ emoticon.”

“See, there are shades of gray, Gray,” Octane returned. “Let’s say the winky face is the ‘I’ll fuck you now’ emoticon, but the smiley face is the ‘I’ll fuck you, but you’ll have to work for it’ emoticon. Carl what-what-what do you think?”

The two hadn’t notice Carl walking away thirty seconds prior.

“Huh. Yeah, that figures,” Octane stated.

“He wouldn’t have known the answer anyway,” El retorted.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next morning, El was at Carl’s house, spending the day playing video games. Fighting games were one of the few things Carl could do better at than El, which annoyed him to no end.

“FINISH HIM!” the voice on the TV commanded.

“God-fucking-damnit!” El growled as he crushed the dark purple controller between his hands as if it were dried kindling.

“You better have brought another, man,” Carl replied, shaking his head.

“Always do,” El responded as he pulled out a new controller from his backpack and plugged it in. “So you text her yet?”

“Not yet.”

“What the hell are you waiting for?”

“Tryin’ to play it cool.”

“You haven’t played it cool a day in your life. Don’t start now.”

“Fuck you. I know what I’m doing.”

“Yeah, and I bet all those girls you haven’t fucked would agree with you.”

“Real nice, dickhead.”

“Okay, fine, sorry, but I am trying to help you out. Just trust me on this, okay?”

“Alright,” Carl sighed. Removing the phone from his pocket, he carefully began typing and asked, “How’s this: “ ‘Yo, it’s Carl. How’s tomorrow night work for you?’ ”

“Short and to the point; I like it.”

“I’m about to hit send,” he said with his thumb hovering above the button.

“I swear to God, I’ll break your hand and send it for you.”

“Fine, Christ,” he said, hitting the button. The second he did, his stomach immediately felt as if there were two tons of bricks in it.

Five minutes passed without a reciprocating text. This didn’t stop Carl from checking his phone.

“You would’ve felt it vibrate, man,” El replied, not taking his eyes off the TV. “Just focus on the game.”

Another five minutes passed. Still nothing.

“Maybe it didn’t send,” Carl sputtered in a worry as he once again checked his messages. “You know how sometimes I’ll text you, and you’ll be all like, ‘Shit, I never got that text.’ ”

“I will seriously bitch slap you if you don’t stop.”

Carl agreed to wait at least ten minutes before checking again.

Then he checked after two.

“That’s it. I’m going to break—” El began before being cut off by a *bzzzzz* sound.

“Shit, shit, shit, shit!” Carl yelled. “It’s her.”

“What’s it say?”

“I don’t wanna look. You check,” he said, tossing El his phone.

“You’re unbelievable,” El muttered. “Alright, it says, ‘Cool. Is my place okay? My parents probably won’t like me going to some random boy’s house l-o-l. Eight work? 1414 Sparrow Court.’ ”

Carl let out a sigh of relief as his heart slowed down its furious stampeding.

“Now you can’t text her for two hours.”

“What?” Carl asked, baffled. “Why?”

“You don’t want to seem too eager, man. Fuck, I’d say not to text her back until like 9 tomorrow to seem that much cooler.”

“What? You just send fifteen minutes ago not to play it cool!”

“Yeah, because it didn’t matter when you initiated contact. But you don’t wanna respond right away like you were sitting around waiting for her to text you back.”

“You’re a fucking idiot.”

“I don’t make the rules, Carlson. All I ask is that you learn from my experience. You’re trying to bang two rocks together to start a fire, and I’m hanging you a Zippo.”

El then held his hand out, pretending to be holding a lighter.

“Carl, take the Zippo.”

“You can’t be…”

“Carlson,” El said in a feigned authoritative toned.

Relenting, Carl took the imaginary lighter from El’s hand to shut him up.

“Atta boy.”

Waiting for what felt like the longest two hours of his life, El finally gave him permission to text Spore back, and as soon as he did, Carl began the manically tapping away a message on his phone.

He then erased it.

He then composed another message.

That message was also promptly erased.

“What the hell is wrong with you, you psycho? Just say ‘Ok.’ ”

“ ‘Ok’ or just ‘K’? Maybe ‘Sounds good’?”

“Maybe grow a sack.”

Ignoring El, Carl, with about a dozen clicks sent ‘Sounds great : )’ to the girl. As soon as he did, he looked mortified thinking of what he had just sent.

Snatching the phone, El asked, “Sweet holy mother of Jesus, did you really just send her a smiley?”

“I panicked,” Carl replied, taking it back.

*bzzzzz*

“That was quick,” El remarked. “What’s it say?”

“ ‘L-o-l, see you then’.”

Shaking his head, El replied, “Dodged a bullet, man. A smiley? Jesus Christ, dude.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The two boys hung out by Carl’s house the rest of the day, and before he left, El wished him luck tomorrow and once again requested to hear all about Carl ‘tapping that ass.’ Shortly after, Carl went to bed, having a dreamless sleep, and woke up at 10 AM the next day.

He couldn’t explain it, but the ten hours preceding their study session seemed to move at both super speed and in slow motion. When he had a pang of excitement, the clock wouldn’t move; when he thought about calling it off, the big hand jumped ahead fifteen minutes. Finally, at 7:30 PM, Carl left his house and started the drive over.

The GPS told him that her house was a mere fifteen minutes away, but Carl wanted to get there early as he was going stir crazy sitting around and waiting. Borrowing his mom’s 2004 maroon Mercury Sable, Carl nervously drove towards her house, toying with the idea of cancelling as he did.

‘I got a dentist appointment, sorry.’ No, shit, that’s stupid. Who has a dentist appointment at 8 PM on a Sunday?

‘Sorry, my brother’s dead. Yeah, ma always told him not to eat paint chips.’ That one might actually…

Just then, the number ‘1414’ popped in to the corner of his eye, and he slammed on the brakes, nearly overshooting her house. Backing the car in snuggly next to the curb, he grabbed his backpack, got out of the car, and treaded slowly to her door, his legs feeling as if they were full of lead.

Walking towards her front door and along the walkway, he noticed a row of flowers whose light purples bulbs were in a partial bloom. Curious, he bent down to look at the paper tag still attached to one of them, which read ‘hyacinth.’

“Huh,” he said to himself, as he rose back up. Breathing in deeply, he finished walking the last few feet to the door and rang the bell.

Within seconds, Spore was there, dressed in a pair of light jeans and a green t-shirt adorned with a shamrock.

“Hey!” she said with a smile. “Did you find the place alright?”

“Yeah, no problem,” he responded, walking in to her home.

“Great! Would you like anything to drink?”

“Ah, no thanks. I’m good,” he replied as he cocked his head in all different angles to take in the view of her home. “Where you want to study?”

She shrugged. “My room, I guess. The living room’s kind of a mess right now.”

“Your parents okay with that?” Carl asked with a cockeyed gaze.

“Well, they actually decided to go to the movies a few minutes ago, so it doesn’t really matter.”

Oh, boy.

“Oh, word,” Carl replied breathlessly. “Yeah, sounds good then.”

“Cool! Upstairs, first door on the right. I’m going to get some water. You sure you don’t want anything?”

“N—no thanks,” he replied, now nervous at the thought of being alone in her room.

“Okay, cool! I’ll be up in a second. You can make yourself comfortable.”

Slowly walking up the stairs and in to the first room on the right, he let the strap of his backpack slowly slide down his arm and in to his hand. Placing it on the ground in front of him, he took in the sights of the room: Four light pink walls with a gray ceiling, framed pictures of dried flowers adorning the area, and a pet goldfish swimming aimlessly back and forth in a bowl on her desk.

Taking a seat on her soft, queen-size bed, he took note of the ornate wooden headboard with what appeared to be leaves carved in to it.

She’s definitely got a theme going here, he thought. He then heard footsteps approaching the door and immediately arose as she came in to the room.

“No, it’s okay. Sit,” she said as she sipped on her water. Setting it down, she brought her desk chair and a binder over, placed the chair in front of Carl, and gently lowered herself in.

“So, uh, where do you wanna start?” Carl asked.

“From the beginning seems to make the most sense, doesn’t it? He said the test is only going to be on the first chapter anyway.”

“Ha, yeah, true.”

“Cool,” she replied. “These should help; I printed out a few study guides Mr. Winters posted online.”

Handing Carl the papers from out of her notebook, he replied with a smile, “I’m surprised that dude knows how to post stuff online. I honestly didn’t even think he knew what the Internet was.”

Laughing, she went, “Oh, you’re so mean to him! He’s a nice man.”

“Please. You’re just into him ‘cause of his sick dance moves.”

“Ha! You got me,” she giggled. Turning around to pick up her textbook that she left on the floor, she cracked open the cover and said, “Okay: Chapter 1.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Over the course of the next hour, the two went back and forth quizzing each other on questions, referring to the corresponding answer key to see if they were correct or not. Carl was surprised at how many he had gotten right, especially considering how hard it was for him to completely focus as he kept stealing quick glances of Spore the moments he was supposed to be looking in the textbook.

When they finally finished all the questions, Carl remarked, “I actually did pretty decent. You must be my lucky charm.”

“Seems like it,” she said while cocking her head and giving a partial smile. She then added, “So?”

“So…what?” Carl asked in return.

She laughed, momentarily looked down at her feet, and then looked back up at him. “Are you going to kiss me now or what?”

“I…”

Carl’s heart started pounding so hard he could barely hear.

Spore smiled and leaned in; Carl closed his eyes and did the same. Their mouths then pressed up against each other; her lips were moist and tasted of strawberries.

He pulled back for a second and smiled. “Hell of a way to finish chapter 1.”

They both then leaned back in, and outside, the hyacinths began to bloom.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


END OF ACT 1


And with a bang (not literally, sorry, El), Act 1 comes to a finish! Carl’s first kiss; my little boy is growing up. There are still two acts left, and I can’t wait for you all to see what I have in store for Carl, Spore, El, Octane, that douchebag Wing, and the rest of the cast of Empowered! Comments have now been enabled on this blog, so you can let me know below what you think, or you can go on Facebook or Twitter to share your thoughts! Be a pal and share/retweet with your friends! The more the merrier.

I’ll be taking next week off in preparation for Act 2, so you jabronies have two full weeks to catch up before it starts. See you then and happy reading!






Empowered: Act 1, Part 5

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, Carl.”

“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.

“Thanks, Carl!”

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.”

“I’m not.”

“Are you feeling better?” she asked, already knowing the answer.

“I’m fine.”

“Carl.”

“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.

“Uhhhh…not sure.”

“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?”

“Yeah, yeah.”

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.”

“Thanks, Cocktane.”

“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.”

“Carl…”

“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.

“What?”

“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.”

“Naturally.”

“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.

“Yeah…”

“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.”

*riiiiiiiing*

“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.”

“You think!”

“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?”

“…they pinch.”

“Ha.”

“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.”

“Dude.”

“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?





Empowered: Act 1, Part 4

Empowered: Act 1, Part 4



In what’s undoubtedly my most dramatic post to date (yes, even more so that the Saggezza/Magdalena reunion in Wood You Be Mine?), Carl comes face-to-face with an old rival…and an old friend. We’ve reached the turning point of Act 1, and the question raised is, when things spiral out of control, will Carl be able to pick up the pieces? Act 1, Part 4 starts now:


The next morning, as Carl tried to sleep his misery away, he was, much to his displeasure, awoken by his best friend who was effortlessly leaping up two stories and shouting in to Carl’s open window.

*swish*

“Carl!”

*thunk* *swish*

“Carl!”

With a pathetic moan, Carl pulled his sheets over his head.

*thunk* *swish*

El took the hint and promptly discarded it.

“Carl!”

*thunk* *swish*

“Carl!”

“What!” Carl finally screamed.

*thunk* *swish*

“Guess who I penetrated last night!”

*thunk* *swish*

Carl, now face down on his bed, grabbed a pillow to cover his head in an attempt to block out El.

*thunk* *swish*

“Carl!”

All I want right now is to sleep, Carl thought as he let out a belabored moan.

*thunk* *swish*

“That’s exactly what she sounded like!”

“Please fuck off,” he muttered in a muffled voice.

Ignoring his friend’s request, El grabbed the ledge to the open window, thrust his body, legs first, over the sill, and made his way in.

The annoyance continued.

“Carl. Carl. Carl. Carl. Carl.”

“Wha-a-a-a-a-a-t?” Carl whimpered feebly.

“What’s up, buddy?”

It was obvious to anyone that El was dying to brag, but Carl, never having so much as kissed a girl, wasn’t too keen on hearing his friend’s sex story. Had he higher confidence, perhaps things would been different, but as it stood, he was inexperienced and uncertain of himself. But what he was certain of was trying to get El to drop it was futile.

“Alright, man,” he lightly moaned while pushing himself up from a supine position to lean against his headboard, “let’s hear it.”

Eagerly taking a seat on the edge of Carl’s bed, El began to relay what happened the previous night with the vigor and enthusiasm of a Greek poet singing his song around a fire.

“Picture it:” he started, “We’re at the dance, the music’s playing, our eyes meet from across the room,” he then paused for dramatic effect and expanded his arms with his palms opened wide, “and time slows down.”

“Who was it?”

“Hourglass.”

“Explains the part about time slowin’ down.”

“It was very West Side Story.”

“What else happened?”

“Well, I went over to her; we started dancing. I had her slow things down around us a bit more so we could get a few good grinds in before any teacher could come break it up.”

“Gotta leave room for the Holy Spirit, my man.”

“Ha, seriously. Anyway, she then said we should go out to her car, and after that, it was game over.”

“She good?”

“Yeah, man. Her powers made it last twice as long as normal. It was fucking awesome.”

“Oh, so you got to disappoint a girl for an entire minute this time, huh?”

“Best goddamn minute of her life! Anyway, what about you? You never went in to detail with that chick from last night.”

“Uh, her name’s Spore; she’s new. She was there doing a photo assignment or some shit. Wants to be on the yearbook staff.”

“Yearbook staff? Yikes. Geek rejection is the worst kind of rejection. But hey, that’s what you get for trying to steal our womens.”

Dryly, Carl remarked while shaking his head, “Racism’s fun, man.”

“Sure is!” El agreed, tongue-in-cheek. “Anyway, let’s do something!”

“Why do you have so much energy?”

“You know how I get after hooking up! Come on, man; breakfast on me.”

Rubbing his eyes and letting out a yawn, Carl said in agreement, “Wake me up from a nice sleep, goddamn right breakfast on you. Lemme get dressed and see if I can borrow the car.”

“Why? I can just hop us around.”

“I know you can. That’s why I wanna borrow the car.”

“Such a baby. Fine, I’ll wait outside.”

“Aight, I’ll be out in two minutes.”

“Be quick about it; I’m starving,” El exclaimed right before diving head first out the window as if he were jumping in to a pool. As he sailed through the air, he twisted his body upright and landed nimbly on his feet, his specialty shock-absorbent sneakers soaking in the bulk of the impact. Immediately upon landing, El gave a quick hop over to the Freeman family car and glanced in to the window to ensure his hair wasn’t too tussled.

Carl, meanwhile, threw on a solid red t-shirt and black Nike mesh shorts, slipped his feet in to a pair of sandals by his door, quickly brushed his teeth, and headed downstairs to find his mom washing the dishes.

“Can I borrow the car?” he asked his mom, foregoing any ideal conversation.

“And good morning to you, too, young man,” she responded without looking up.

“Sorry, good morning. Can I borrow the car?” Carl asked, purposefully keeping his statements short as he was eager to leave.

“What for?” she questioned, always intent on knowing what her children were doing.

“El’s here; we’re gonna go out.”

“You’re not hungry?”

“He’s buying breakfast.”

“Y’all shouldn’t be fools spending your money like that when we have food here,” she asserted, her voice mild with discontent.

“He offered, and I ain’t gonna say no.”

Growing up poor and being taught to save money, Insight let out a disapproving sigh and responded, “Just don’t get back too late.”

“I won’t,” he said as he made a beeline for the door, grabbing the keys off the kitchen countertop as he did.

“I love you, hon,” she called out to him.

Without looking back, he swung the door open and nonchalantly replied, “You, too.”

Walking outside, he saw El still fiddling with his hair in the window. “You look gorgeous,” Carl quipped, “Come on, get in the car.”

“Sorry about that. You know, I sometimes get lost in my own eyes.”

Ignoring his comment, Carl asked, “You wanna hit up the mall? Grab something in the food court?”

“Sounds good to me. We can also check out the Gap. They probably have one of those end-of-summer clearance sales. Maybe we can get some of those nice tight shirts that show off your chesticles.”

“Mediums fit me weird,” Carl murmured, slightly embarrassed, while turning the key to start the engine.

“Ha! Sure,” El cracked.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

El made good on his word and treated Carl to a sausage, egg, and cheese on a biscuit in the food court. Upon finishing, Carl wiped the crumbs from his bottom lip, stood up, and the two headed towards the Gap.

“So how much for me to go in there and ask the lady if she has a pair of jeans with extra crotch space?” El asked, sporting a giant grin at the thought.

Carl wouldn’t get the chance to answer because as they were walking towards the store, he saw Wing Kong, the student who’d been terrorizing Carl for as long as he could remember, walking out.

Wing’s hair, layered, shoulder length, and jet black, was whipped out of the way of his face as he strutted out of the store, though his right eye remained covered. Contrasting the darkness of his hair were the two blindingly white, feathery protrusions sticking out of each side of his back and through the custom slits of his shirt. Currently folded in, at their maximum length, they reached a span of an impressive eight feet.

“Ah, fuck me,” Carl said, shaking his head.

“What?” El asked. He hadn’t yet spotted Wing.

“It’s your little lax buddy,” he muttered. His eyes were now closed, and the sense of impending frustration bore down upon him like a hammer on an anvil.

Looking up to see what he meant, El spotted Wing walking in their direction. With an annoyed glare, El replied, “Dude, you know I hate him as much as you.”

“Whatever,” Carl said, as the two instinctively started changing direction. “Let’s just loop around before he–”

“Look at these two,” Wing mused with a devious smirk. “Hello, Elcsum. And hello, Imp.”

A long time ago, Wing decided ‘Carl’ wasn’t fitting enough of a name and dubbed him with one he felt to be more appropriate: ‘Imp,’ short for ‘Impotent.’

Carl closed his eyes again and tilted his head back in defeat the second he heard that icy, unwavering voice coming from the lean and lithe Chinese-American student.

“Don’t call him that, Wang,” El warned as he and Carl turned to face him.

“So, so clever, El.”

“Dude, anytime, anywhere,” Carl added.

“Like you stand a chance, Imp,” Wing rejoined with a condescending laugh. A rush of power fell over him as he saw Carl’s face contort in to a guise of anger with an underlayer of hopelessness.

Fanning the flames, Wing added, “Honestly, why not do the gene pool a favor and just throw yourself off a building?”

It was hard for Carl to figure out which was worse: What he was saying or the smug look he had while he was saying it.

“Seriously, man,” El fumed, his lividity showing in his face as it turned bright red. “Back. The fuck. Off.”

“Calm down, Elcsum. Carl knows it’s all in good fun, don’t you, Carl?” Wing spouted, mockingly.

Carl’s response was a silent, angry glare.

“I’ll see you two later,” Wing remarked as he glided past Carl on the right. He then added “Take care, Imp” with a shoulder check accompanying the last word.

Feeling flushed with anger, El reached over, grabbed Wing, and jacked him up against the wall, roaring, “I said back the fuck off, Wing!”

“El, I can fucking handle this!” Carl yelled to him.

Keeping a calm composure, Wing merely stated, “Aw, defending your fag boyfriend. How sweet.” And half a second later, before either Carl or El could process it, his wings shot out at full length, and with a single, fierce flap, a small but intense gust of wind was produced, knocking back El and releasing Wing from his grip.

Landing gracefully on his feet, Wing saw no need to acknowledge what had just happened and instead focused on straightening the wrinkles El produced in his new pink Oxford shirt. It was then that a guard started sprinting over and used her abilities to produce a force field to shield off the two warring factions.

“All of you out now! Before I call the cops! You two out the north entrance,” she screamed, pointing at Carl and El, “and you with the wings out the south entrance!”

Wing, without saying a word, turned to Carl to give him a wink and mockingly kissed the air in front of him before floating away.

Carl and El, meanwhile, did as they were told and left the mall in the opposite direction. The two were silent for a full minute, both too angry to speak. The main difference between the two was to whom their anger was directed.

“Don’t let him get to you, man,” El finally said. “He’s the kind of kid whose mommy doesn’t love him or some shit, and he takes it out on everyone else.”

“I could’ve fucking handled it, El,” Carl sneered, not acknowledging El’s remark.

“I know you could’ve,” El agreed, ostensibly. “I just didn’t want you getting hurt.”

“Yeah, great, but I don’t need you to defend me. I’m a grown-ass man; I can take care of shit myself!” Carl’s voice grew loud as he replayed the scene in his head.

“Sorry for helping out my best friend! Christ,” El replied, rolling his eyes.

Carl, now completely stopped in his tracks, screamed, “Did it occur to you that I don’t need your fucking help! You’re not my fucking dad, El!”

El was quiet, his face visible with hurt. Puckering his lips as if to keep in what he really wanted to say, he decided not to further aggravate the situation and merely stated, “You know what? I think I’ll just jump home.” And before Carl had a chance to respond, there was a *swish* followed by a half-hearted “See you later.”

“El, I…” Carl started, unable to finish his sentence.

Fuck.

Now angry more at himself than anyone else, Carl whipped open the door to his car, got in, and started for home. The drive was devoid of music as Carl focused, deep in thought, about what happened. He hated when El defended him like that. Hated it.

He wasn’t a child; El wasn’t his father.

He could handle things himself.

He was just looking out for you, you fuck, he thought, his emotions now in conflict with one another. What the fuck is wrong with you?

He tried his best to block out his thoughts for the remainder of the drive, but this proved impossible. Pulling in to the driveway, he lingered a moment longer than usual, his head resting on the wheel. Taking a few simple, short breaths in and out, he had to force his hand to grab the handle, open the door, and exit the vehicle.

As he entered his home, Carl’s disposition was palpable. Even without her ability, Insight, who was sipping coffee at the kitchen table, would’ve been able to tell right away that something was wrong. Her son had a tendency to wear his emotions like a sweater.

“Carl, honey, what’s wrong?”

“Nothin’.”

“When will you learn this back and forth won’t ever work on me?”

Turning towards her and yelling, “I don’t know, ma, probably when you learn if I said nothin’s wrong that it means I don’t wanna talk about it!”

Feeding off his emotions, Insight stood up from her seat, raised an angry finger, and snapped back at her son, “You watch your mouth, first of all! Second of all, that doesn’t and won’t ever stop me from trying to help! It’s you who needs to come to terms with that, not me!”

Carl looked down at the ground like a shamed dog. Muttering, he replied, “I’m sorry, ma. It’s just…”

The was a momentary pause as tears began to run down his eyes.

“Why me, mom?”

Insight hugged her son, stroked his head, and they both cried together.


TO BE CONTINUED


Well-done drama or cheesy and over-the-top? I’m hoping the former, but it’s never easy to tell with your own writing. Care to tell me what you think? I’m always open to praise and criticism, so hit me up on Facebook or Twitter. My main goal is to give you all a great story; let me know if I’m on the right track.






Empowered: Act 1, Part 3

Empowered: Act 1, Part 3



Time for Act 1, Part 3 of Empowered! This may be my favorite part so far of Act 1 as it marks the full appearance of The Gemini Brothers! As the glue that binds my two stories together, let’s see if they treat Carl the same way they treated Legno. Why were they so callous with him anyway? Time will tell, but for right now, let’s get this party started:


Licking his wounds, Carl began to slink away. And El, seeing his friend with that all-too-familiar blank stare of disappointment, edged up to comfort him.

“So what happened, killer?” El asked, throwing his right arm around Carl’s shoulders.

“Ah, shit, you know, man. Same ‘ol story. She’s afraid I’d be too much man for her and all that. My cock’s just way too big.”

“I hate it when that happens!” El yelled, throwing back his head. “Come on,” he then gave Carl a slap on the back, “I’ll buy you a drink.”

“You mean the free punch on the table over there?”

“Someone’s salty!” El exclaimed jovially. “Better make it a double.”

“I don’t know, man,” Carl sighed, his voice heavy with regret, “I think I’d rather just kinda head back.”

“It’s only been twenty minutes! Don’t be a bitch,” El chided.

“Oh, shit! I’m a bitch? Now I totally want to stay here and hang out with you.”

“Ah, sarcasm. It’s a wonder why you’re not more popular,” El quipped with a slightly annoyed smirk.

“Whatever, man. You stay; I’ll walk home.”

“You sure? Come on, man. Mingle. The music hasn’t even started yet!”

“Nah, I’m tired anyway,” Carl lied, hoping it’d get El off his back. “Call me tomorrow, alright?”

Accepting defeat, El finally acquiesced to Carl. “You got it, brotha,” he said, half-heartedly.

The two shook and brought it in for a slight hug and parted. “Later, man,” Carl replied as he began to walk away.

“Later,” El responded, saddened to see his friend go.

As Carl began his exit in to the main hallway, he turned back once more to see Spore, still snapping away, and El, who, within seconds, was already in the middle of getting a number from a tall Indian girl whom he didn’t recognize. Carl was always baffled at how easy El made it seem.

He briefly paused, holding the heavy metal door slightly ajar. He closed his eyes, breathed deeply in and out through his nose, turned, and finally walked out.

While moving towards the exit and past the sign in table, all Carl could hope for was to get home in time to watch something decent on Adult Swim. Hopefully, it’d wash the taste of this night out of his mouth.

“If you’re leaving, you can’t come…” a dull, flat voice began to say.

“I know!” Carl yelled as he continued towards the front door. But before he could get very far, he was stopped by Ms. Hawkins, who was unable to find a teacher to help out the band.

“Excuse me, you there!” she called out.

Turning around to see who it was, he met eyes with the principal, who responded, “Oh, Carl, it’s you. Great! Do you have a quick second to help the band set up? They’re running late enough as it is, and I want to get them on stage before everyone starts rioting,” she said with a slightly forced laugh.

“I actually wanted to…”

“Oh, perfect, thank you!” she said, hearing what she wanted to hear. “No good deed and all that, right?”

With a heavy sigh, Carl responded, “Yeah, right. Sure.”

Visibly relieved, Ms. Hawkins replied, “You’re a lifesaver. Listen, I need to get back inside, but they’re out in the parking lot.” Rushing towards the gym entrance and back to chaperoning, she exclaimed, “Thanks again, Carl!” with her voice trailing off as she ran.

Walking outside and making a right towards the parking lot instead of a left to go home, Carl, annoyed, resolved to help these two as quickly as possible and just head the hell back to his house. Seeing the two men with their van filled with equipment, he approached them and unenthusiastically muttered, “Hey, Ms. Hawkins told me that you guys needed some help.”

The two men turned around simultaneously, and Carl was surprised to see their identical features: Both men had shoulder-length brown hair, bright copper-colored eyes, and thin faces painted with three days worth of stubble. They only difference appeared to be which side their hair was parted on.

“Thanks, kid,” the one brother said, “What’s your name?”

“Carl.”

“Hello, Carl. I’m Giovanni; this is my brother, Giuseppe.”

“That’s…interesting. Um…” he began, intrigued by their names.

The brothers stared at Carl as he toyed around with something that he was clearly hesitant to ask.

“What can you two…do?” Carl finally blurted, fully understanding the irony of his question.

Part of him was hoping they could do nothing.

With a big grin on his face, Giuseppe, who was clearly elated that Carl had asked that question, exclaimed, “Well, we rock all the boys and girls as the world famous…” he then paused for effect, threw back his head, stretched out his arms, and finished with “GEMINI BROTHERS!”

Carl turned to Giovanni, “Why is he yelling?”

“It’s…” Giovanni then sighed as he closed his eyes and rubbed his face with his hand, “it’s just what he does.”

“Anyway, what I meant was your names don’t describe your powers like everyone else’s.”

Raising his left eyebrow, a befuddled Giuseppe, who up until now was still staring upward with his arms outstretched, brought them to his side and met eyes with Carl. His question to the boy was a mere “What?”

“Your names,” Carl said, speaking more slowly and in a somewhat condescending manner, “what do they mean?”

“Hm,” Giuseppe pondered, “I don’t think we follow.”

Carl shot them a confused look and asked, “How don’t you know how it works?”

The two men turned to each other and shared a smile. Giovanni turned back to Carl and simply replied, “Humor us.”

A look of uncertainty pranced across Carl’s face, but he did as he was asked and explained, “Okay, well, as most people know, before you’re born, doctors are able to detect your power set, and your parents or whoever name you based on that. Like, my brother can hypnotize people, and he’s named Mesmer, and my sister can produce different kinds of EM waves out of her eyes, so she’s called Iris.”

“Giovanni, did you know that?”

“Of course I knew that, Giuseppe. Did you know that?”

“How wouldn’t I know that? Carl, did you know that?”

What the fuck is going on?

“Sorry. It’s just for a second, I thought…”

This never gets any easier.

“…you were like me.”

“Like you how?” questioned Giuseppe

“I…” he breathed in and then let out of heavy sigh, “I don’t have any powers.”

Never.

“Are you sure?” Giovanni asked.

“What?”

“Are. You. Sure?” he asked again, more deliberately.

Mockingly, Carl responded, “Pretty damn sure, man…”

“Maybe you do have powers, and you don’t even realize it,” Giuseppe suggested. “Maybe you have something along the lines of superlative cheese-digesting abilities.”

Carl gave Giuseppe an annoyed stare.

“Lactose supertolerance,” he elaborated.

“Okay, forget it. You two need help bringing this crap in, right?”

“On second thought,” Giovanni answered, looking in to the open van, “I think we can manage.”

“Are you guys for…you know what? Never mind,” he said, throwing his hands up in the air. Facetiously, he added, “Good luck with the show.”

He swiftly pivoted to finally start his long walk back home but was stopped half a moment later.

“Why ‘Carl’?” Giovanni inquired.

Turning his head back slightly, Carl asked, “What?”

“Why ‘Carl’?” questioned Giuseppe this time.

“I really don’t get what you guys are asking,” he said, now completely turned around.

“If your brother is ‘Mesmer’…” started Giovanni.

“…and your sister is ‘Iris’…” continued Giuseppe.

“…then why are you ‘Carl’?” they both finished in unison.

Carl gave a quick, annoyed shrug and hastily responded, “I…I don’t know. My mom just liked the way it sounded. It doesn’t mean anything.”

Again, he tried to walk away but was stopped once more.

“Might be the opposite, don’t ya think?” Giuseppe called out.

“Huh?”

“What my brother means is,” Giovanni said, “maybe it’s not that it doesn’t mean anything; maybe it’s that it could mean anything.”

“Still not getting it. Anyway, later. Good talk,” he replied with a sarcastic wave of his hand. He then finally managed to get away, grateful that they didn’t try calling him over for a third time.

Once he was completely gone, Giovanni turned to his brother and said, “At least this one’s not an objektophile, Beppe.”

“True,” Giuseppe said with a nod, “but he’s also not as much fun, Gio.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Carl looped around the building and started making his trek home. His eyes were pointed downward. His hands were in his pockets. He had that overbearing feeling of depression again.

Upset over being shot down.

Jealous of his best friend.

Angry at himself.

It’s never me. It’ll never be me. I don’t get it. What am I doing wrong? I’m nice. I’m funny. I think I’m good looking.

Whatever. Fuck it. I don’t care.

Goddamnit.

Fiercely staring at the ground, these thoughts repeated in his head over and again until he got in to his house. He walked in and wasted no time in going up the stairs and collapsing on his bed.

As Carl looked around his room, he saw posters of action stars, statues of superheroes, and bookshelves filled with tales of knights and cowboys and wizards and warriors.

All things he wished he could be.

I hate my life.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


TO BE CONTINUED


Solid advice The Geminies gave to Carl, right? But why? What do they care? You’ll find out one day (probably three or four stories down the line…I have a lot planned for you jokers), but for now, just enjoy the ride.

Next week is the Act 1 Finale, and after spending the weekend writing, we may have to bump it up to four (or even five) acts. If you guys keep reading, I’ll keep writing. So let me know how much more you want to see on Facebook or Twitter. And I’m super interested in knowing how this compares to Wood You Be Mine?!






Empowered: Act 1, Part 2

Empowered: Act 1, Part 2



Hey, everyone! We’re back with Act 1, Part 2 of Empowered! For those of you who enjoyed the first part, I think you’ll like this one even more. We’re getting in to the real meat of the story, with old friends and new loves being introduced. And it’s my hope that the story will take you back to the simpler (although perhaps not better) times of high school. I know it’s evoked some memories from me, and I hope it’s the same for you. Let’s begin!


The pair of friends walked through the entrance, the doors having already been propped open. As they did, the reality of school starting again hit them like a tidal wave. Images of times past and times to come rushed through their minds, but all Carl could think was, ‘Our year’…I hope.

After the sensation of nostalgia subsided, Carl and El made their way on to the sign-in line; the teacher seated at the table in front of the gym entrance had the glamorous job of monitoring the attendees. As the two stood there, Carl managed to overhear a name uttered to the teacher, and immediately his stomach felt as if a boxer just unleashed everything he had.

“Wing Kong.”

The voice was cold and metallic.

“Thank you. You’re signed in. Remember, if you leave, you can’t come back in.”

“The horror,” the student replied. Carl could only image the dickhead ‘roll of the eyes’ move that accompanied this.

As the student stepped off the line and in to the gymnasium, El moved in front of the desk.

“Hello, and welcome to the Senior Mixer. Name please?” said the man to El in a dry, hanging drawl that seemed to go on for an eternity.

“Doc Drain! Drain Train! How was your summer?” El exclaimed, much more enthusiastic than he should be.

“Name please?”

“Really?” El said, slightly disheartened. “I had you for Honors Bio last year.”

“Name please?”

“Star of the lacrosse team?”

“Name please?”

Breathing in deeply and letting out a disappointed sigh, he responded, “Elcsum Gray,” and without missing a beat, he added, “And this is my lovely date, Carlita.”

“Fuckin’ hate you,” Carl muttered to El under his breath while shaking his head slightly.

“Thank you,” Mr. Drain Winters, better known as ‘Doc Drain’ to his students, replied as he scribbled down El’s name on to the sheet in front of him. In a tone drier than the Sahara, he continued, “You’re signed in. Remember, if you leave, you can’t come back in.”

“Okay,” El remarked in agreement as he stepped out of the way.

Carl then moved to the front; it was his turn to deal with the good doctor.

“Hello, and welcome to the Senior Mixer. Name please?”

“Carl Freeman.”

“Thank you. You’re signed in. Remember…”

“If I leave, I can’t come back in. Yeah, yeah. I got it.”

Not paying any attention to Carl, Drain finished, “…if you leave, you can’t come back in.” Seeing no need to acknowledge that last statement, Carl walked away from the table and towards El. Before making their way in, they could once again hear “Hello, and welcome to the Senior Mixer” with a flat, dreary inflection that hadn’t changed and likely never will.

“Come on, bud,” El said to Carl as he patted him on the shoulder, “let’s rock this.”

Within minutes, Carl’s prediction had come true, with the exception that music wasn’t yet playing: El was being his usual charming self, and people were huddled around him as witty anecdotes, pithy comebacks, and exaggerated tales of the summer flew at them left and right.

Carl stood, drink in hand, and nodded.

He nodded a lot.

When someone else finally spoke, El pulled him to the side and reprimandingly whispered, “You look like a friggin’ pigeon! What the hell are you doing?”

“I don’t know, man. Participating?”

“By making it seem that your head is too heavy for your neck to support it?”

“You were dominating the conversation. What the hell you want me to do?”

“Fine. I’ll set you up, and you knock it down. Be cool!”

Stepping back in to them semicircle of classmates, El interrupted and said, “Carl just reminded me of the greatest thing that happened this summer. Tell ‘em, bud!”

Christ, that’s the goddamn set up? Carl thought. Never one for improvisation, Carl decided to do what he does best.

He choked.

“I…uh…”

Carl then brought a balled-up fist to his mouth and cleared his throat.

“I gotta go to the bathroom.”

Turning promptly and making a beeline to the lavatory, Carl could overhear El. “Classic Carl! Always leaves ‘em wanting more, right?”

“Stupid!” he mumbled to himself. “Stupid, stupid, stupid! ‘I gotta go to the bathroom,’ that’s the best you can come up with? They’ll probably call me ‘Crapper Carl’ or some shit from now on.”

Leaning in with his shoulder to push the bathroom door open, Carl angrily threw his drink in the trash, placed both hands on the cold porcelain sink, and stared in to the mirror.

“Be cool,” he said to his reflection. “You got this shit.”

He unscrewed the left faucet and let it run for a few seconds. He cupped his hands, collected some ice cold water, and splashed it on his face.

“Alright,” he said once again to the mirror, “don’t be a social retard for once.”

Drying off his face and exiting the bathroom, Carl, with a strong, deliberate gait, made his way back to the dance. As he did, he noticed someone else reaching for the door as well.

It was a girl.

“Oh, my bad,” he replied as he pulled the door open and stepped to the side. “After you.”

With a smile and a ‘thank you,’ the girl walked in, and Carl followed shortly after. Not immediately, however; he wanted to give himself a moment to cock his head downward and score a quick glimpse of her backside.

Damn…she’s cute.

Making his way back to El, he gave him a punch on the shoulder to get his attention then promptly grabbed a loose piece of his shirt to drag him over and out of earshot from anyone around.

“Ow!” El whined while rubbing his shoulder, “What the hell, dude?”

“Oh, stop crying. It’s not my fault you’re not as durable as you are strong.”

“I’m fragile. Like a beautiful angel. Now what’s going on? You made us both look like a couple of jackasses when you left.”

“They probably forgot I was there two seconds later,” Carl replied with a roll of his eyes, “and I bet you just told ‘em the story of you and Flame to get the attention back on you anyway.”

“Well, she was most definitely…”

“ ‘…hot and bothered,’ ” Carl said, hastily finishing El’s anecdote, “Yeah, I know, I know. Listen,” he then jerked his head to the left to draw El’s attention to the girl he had just met, who was now standing off in the corner and taking pictures of the event, “do you know who that is?”

The girl, roughly 5’2” with dirty blonde hair, thick black frames, and a petite figure, was holding a large, professional-looking camera, complete with a strap around her neck for safe-keeping. A stranger to both Carl and El, they both looked upon her in awe.

“No clue, man,” El replied. “She must be new.”

“I held the door open for her earlier.”

“Holy shit! How hard did she blow you after that?”

“Fuck off. I’m just sayin’, I kind of have an in. Think I should go talk to her?”

“I mean, it’ll be tough since you’ve gotten rid of the pencil ‘stache and corn rows,” El joked, “but best of luck anyway, man.”

“You’re one to talk. I remember frosted tips and a pizza face not too long ago.”

“It wasn’t that…”

“Connect the dots, lah lah lah lah,” Carl began singing while pointing to different spots on El’s face, “connect the…”

“Just go over there!” El barked with a push, wanting both help out his best friend, and, more so, end the ridicule.

“Alright, alright! Chill!”

Carl, after stumbling slightly from El’s shove, regained his footing and nervously walked over to the girl he had met a few minutes prior. He sidled up next to her, but she was too busy taking pictures of the students and the surrounding area to notice.

“Ah-hem,” he said, clearing his throat.

Nothing.

“AH-HEM,” he said again, even louder.

Nothing.

Fuck.

Noticing the disaster-in-the-making, El gave a nudge to his portly Asian friend and said, “Hey, Brainstorm, do me a favor and TK a little tap on that girl’s shoulder by Carl.”

“You got it, man.”

With a raise of his right hand and a twitch of his left eye, Brainstorm sent the tiniest of prods to prick the girl’s left shoulder. Her attention was immediately turned to where Carl was standing.

Seeing both her and El looking his way at the exact same time, he caught a glimpse of his best friend shooting him a cheesy smile and a ‘wink-and-the-gun’ before looking away.

I coulda done it myself, El, Carl thought, annoyed.

“Um, hey,” was her only response to Carl after turning his way.

“Hi. Hey. Yeah.”

He stared.

After a moment that felt like a millennium, he shot out his hand perfectly straight and parallel with the floor.

“Carl. Is my name.”

“Hi,” she said with a curious smirk while stretching out her hand to meet his, “Spore is mine. Um, thanks again for holding the door open for me.”

Carl, thinking two steps ahead of the conversation, didn’t directly respond to her statement and instead followed up with, “I, uh, haven’t seen you around here. You new?”

The girl gave a slight nod and answered, “Yeah, my parents moved here from North Cali at the beginning of the month. My dad got a new job in the area, so…here we are.”

She didn’t sound overly enthused.

With a half smile, he replied, “It’s nice to meet you.”

Smiling back, she responded with a curious look on her face, “Thanks, you, too…‘Carl,’ you said?”

Before she could ask the follow-up question that always accompanied whenever he told someone his name, he quickly asked, “Spore, huh? Plant manipulation I’m guessing.”

“Oh, yeah. It’s nothing great, really…”

“Ha, I’m sure that’s not true,” he said playfully.

“Judge for yourself,” she responded. She then pointed out a window and said, “Here, I’ll show you. Keep an eye on that tree.”

Dropping her arms to her side, Carl noticed her brown eyes shift to a bright green as she tilted her head to the left.

“Look,” she said.

Now cocking his head to look outside, he saw the top branch on the large oak begin to move; the smaller branches on it contorted to form what looked like fingers. The branch then slowly went up and down, mimicking a wave of the hand.

“That’s pretty cool. I mean, there are a lot of crazy things you can do with phytokinesis. You ever try chemical manipulation and activate any recessive mutation or release pheromones or anything like that?”

With a fairly impressed look on her face, Spore replied, “You sure seem to know a lot about plant biology.”

Carl spent a lot of his free hours reading everything he could on different powers, researching if there were any others out there like him and the possibilities of trying to trigger any latent abilities he might have.

“I read a lot” was his only response.

“Oh, okay. But no, not really. That kind of stuff takes years to develop. My grandma had the same power set, and she was teaching me a lot, but she passed a little while ago.”

He was silent for a second then responded, “Yeah, that’s the worst.”

Carl never knew what to say to people in grief.

“Uh…yeah. Well, anyway, what kind of ability does ‘Carl’ imply?”

“I actually…”

He paused.

This never gets any easier.

“…I actually don’t have any powers.”

“Oh…oh.”

Never.

“When the doctors did the ultrasound, they didn’t see anything on the monitor. They thought it was a fluke; my mom actually went to two other hospitals, and yeah…nada.”

“I’ve never heard of that before.”

“Ha,” Carl said with an uncomfortable laugh, “no one has.”

“I’m…” she paused for a moment, then finished, “I’m really sorry to hear that.”

“I manage,” he asserted with a shrug, implying falsely that he accepted his fate. “I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll never get pushed over the edge and in a moment of intensity have fireballs come out of my hands or something.”

Spore furrowed her brow and gave him a quizzical look.

“I, uh…I’m really into sci-fi.”

“Oh.”

Deciding to shift gears quickly, Carl gave a quick upward flick of his head and asked, “So, what’s with the camera?”

“Well, when my parents and I came in to enroll the other day, I asked about anything in photography since I’m really into it. It was always something I liked to do, so I was told to take some pictures of the dance for the yearbook.”

“Oh, cool.”

“Real quick,” she said while bringing her camera up to her face, “smile!”

Taken off guard, Carl hadn’t had time to form a normal-looking smile. The end result looked more than a little awkward.

Looking at the preview on her camera, she cocked her head back and gave a full-bodied laugh.

Carl couldn’t help but notice how pretty she looked.

“I’ll be sure to get you a copy. But, um, not to be rude, I really need to get back to the assignment.”

“Yeah, right, definitely. Definitely,” he said, nodding a lot once again.

Stop nodding, goddamnit!

At this time, the principal took to the stage that the theater crew put together earlier that week. A microphone and stand were in tow.

*tap tap*

The feedback echoed through the gymnasium, causing everyone, including Carl and Spore, to turn her way.

The principal, a fit black woman draped in purple and much younger than one would expect a principal to be, held the mike in both hands and declared, “Thank you all for coming! I hope you’re all having a great time! For those of you who are new, my name is Ms. Hawkins; hopefully we’ll never have the pleasure of meeting in my office.”

A modest laugh resonated through the room.

“And I apologize for the delay; the band…” she then shot an annoyed glare at the two men standing in the doorway, “…got a little held up. But they just arrived and will be ready to rock your socks soon, so get ready!”

Quickly walking off the stage, Ms. Hawkins approached the two tall, thin men, both wearing matching olive green leather jackets and dark brown corduroy pants.

“Remember to keep it clean,” she said with a mild sneer and an angry forefinger in their faces. “I know the reputation you two have. And we’re not paying in full considering you showed up a full hour late.”

“Do you know how far away Sicily is, love?” the one man piped.

“What?” she asked, befuddled by the remark.

“Don’t listen to him,” the other man advised. “The money won’t be an issue. But if we could request some help bringing our equipment in, that’d be fantastic. The sooner it’s all set up, the sooner we can go on.”

“Fine” was her only response and she promptly turned and began to march away from the two men.

When she was only a mere ten steps away, the one man turned to the other and cackled, “Bit of tight ass that one is, don’t you think, brother?”

“I heard that!” she snarled.

“I said it loud enough so you could, love!”

Back in the gymnasium, Carl was looking down at his feet in anxiety. Collecting some nerve, he began to ask Spore, “So, um, I know you got this assignment and all, but maybe after you snap a few more pictures and the band starts playing, I was thinking…”

Silence for a few seconds as he continued to gather his courage.

“…dance?”

“Oh,” she replied, slightly taken aback, “um…I mean, I’d like to. I really would. But I really need to be taking more pictures. I want to make a good impression, ya know?”

“Yeah, word. Word,” he awkwardly replied, hands now in his pockets. The nodding recommenced.

There was a pause for a moment.

“Word.”

STOP! he screamed in his mind.

“Word.”

GODDAMNIT!

“Cool, cool, cool.”

YOU’RE GOING TO DIE A VIRGIN!

“But hey,” she said, “it was really nice meeting you. I’ll see you around, alright?”

“Yep, yep!” he agreed, forcing a big, toothy smile.

Sweet Jesus, did you have stroke at some point?

“See ya around!” he exclaimed with a quick wave of his right hand.

God, I hope I don’t see her around.


TO BE CONTINUED


Oh, Carl, Carl, Carl. We’ve all been there, though (well, all us guys, anyway). Cute blonde girl with a booty? How can any man resist? Although, let’s not forget the immortal words of Bell Biv Devoe: Never trust a big butt and a smile. But who knows? It may just work out for the best.

And also, look who’s back! If you were confused at Giovanni’s comment at the end of Wood You Be Mine? (“There are other worlds than these.”), now you have an idea. How did they get here? Well, that I’m not quite ready to reveal, but you will see them interact with Carl next week. And hey, they’re always fun, right? See you then (and hopefully on Facebook or Twitter as well) for Act 1, Part 3 of Empowered!






Empowered: Act 1, Part 1

Empowered: Act 1, Part 1



Here we are! The start of my new story, Empowered! I’ve been mentioning it for the past month or two, and now I’m incredibly excited that I can share it with you all today. If you enjoyed the humor and style of Wood You Be Mine?, then Empowered, the story of a world where having superpowers is the norm, will be right up your alley.

It’s going to be a fun next few months, so get your ass ready!


Decibel. Octane. Wavelength. Hourglass. Paradox. Not a random collection of words, instead these are the names of the people of this world. A world with a similar past and present as ours, except for one key difference: Everyone here is born with a superpower.

You’ll meet Spore. You’ll meet Wing. You’ll meet Elcsum and Iris and Mesmer and Insight.

And you’ll also meet Carl.

Carl doesn’t have any superpowers.

Carl’s a mutant.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I don’t want to go to the fucking dance, alright, El?” Carl screamed in to the phone. “It’s a dumbass dance for a bunch of kids to grind up on each other to shitty music from ten years ago!”

“I don’t know how you can say that out loud and not think it’ll be an awesome time,” the voice on the other end of the line answered back. “What are you afraid of? You have absolutely nothing to lose. Come on. Get dressed and I’ll come pick you up.”

Letting out an annoyed sigh, Carl responded, “Just go yourself. I’m not gonna have a good time. I won’t ask any girls to dance, and they won’t ask me. So what’s the point? I can stay at home and have the exact same experience, except I won’t have to put pants on.”

“You’re not wearing pants right now?” El asked after a momentary pause.

“Go without me.”

“I’m coming to get you. You need to come out of your shell. Senior year starts in two days. It’s our year. Let’s start it off right.”

“No.”

El chuckled, “You’re cute when you think you have a choice.”

Closing his eyes and throwing his head back in defeat, Carl replied, “You’re comin’ no matter what I say, aren’t you?”

“Yes. Now for the love of God, put on some pants and meet me outside in ten minutes.”

“Fine. Alright. See you in ten.”

“See ya soon, bud.”

*click*

Doing as El requested, Carl started getting dressed. He dug through the pile of clothes on the floor of his closet; shirts and pants and socks and boxers flying in every corner of the room until he finally found the pair of jeans he was looking for. Bringing them up to his face, he let out a sniff to see if they were safe to go out in.

Breathing in, he hesitated for a moment as the scent lingered in his nose.

“Good enough,” he said to himself as he apathetically put them on. Now moving over to his dresser, he opened the top drawer and grabbed the first button-down shirt he could find. It was crimson red and about three years old, but it still fit him well enough. A little tight, perhaps, since he got it before he started working out, but still wearable. After fastening the buttons on the shirt except for the top two and rolling up his sleeves, he trudged down the stairs, the image of how the night was sure to go running through his head.

He imagined standing next to El as his friend charmingly made conversation with girls and guys alike while he stood there like some leech who’d shrivel up and die if detached from his side. And that was the best case scenario.

“Ma!” he yelled while crouched down in the hallway closet looking for his sneakers, “I’m going to the dance! El’s gonna be here in a few minutes to pick me up!”

“Okay, baby angel, have a good time! And call me when you get there!”

Carl closed his eyes and shook his head. He was 17. He didn’t need the nickname ‘baby angel’ anymore, and he definitely didn’t need to call her when he got to the dance.

“Ma!” he yelled again, “Why do you need me to call you? The dance is at the school, where I’ve been going every day for the past three years without callin’ you!”

“I just worry, honey! Have a good time playing with your friends!”

“We’re not ‘playing,’ ” he muttered to himself.

“What was that, young man?” his mom rejoined, her tone less ‘sweet’ motherly and more ‘mother’ motherly.

“Nothing, ma’am,” he sheepishly replied back. Carl often wondered if his mom’s, known as ‘Insight’ to everyone else, real power was super-hearing. In actuality, she had the power of empathy, which Carl knew all too well. She could sense your thoughts and feelings as if they were her own, making her overly emotional and sensitive to everyone around her. Couple that with a mother’s natural inclination to be protective of her child, and you could only imagine the kind of overbearing anxiety she had towards him and his siblings.

And although deep down he knew that it’s better to have a mother who worries too much as opposed to one who doesn’t worry at all, Carl still sometimes toyed with the idea of slipping a Xanax in her morning coffee.

Finally finding his sneakers, Carl wedged his feet in (he never bothered to untie them), dug his finger in to the back of each to bring up the flap that was now crammed between his heel and the shoe, and stood up to leave. As he grabbed the cold metal doorknob, he let out a quiet sigh and muttered to himself, “Here we go.”

He was already regretting this.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Carl stood outside, hands in his pockets, gazing at the night sky. He attempted to whistle, but all he was able to produce was a wet sputtering noise as spittle came flying out of his lips.

After a few minutes of waiting, Carl finally heard that familiar *swish* sound followed by a loud *thunk*.

This continued about five or six times until El ultimately landed right in front of him. As he did, he whipped his shaggy blonde hair to the side and out of the way of his brilliant blue eyes.

El, short for Elcsum, had the power of super-strength. Every muscle in his body was a hundred times stronger than normal, and, as such, his legs were powerful enough that he could leap to fantastic heights.

“Hey there, little buddy!” El said with a big grin on his face. “Ready to go?”

Carl hated ‘little buddy’ almost as much as he did ‘baby angel.’

“Does it matter?”

“Nope!” El replied as he grabbed Carl and they shot off in to the air. When El said he was coming to pick you up, he meant it literally.

*swish*

Carl really wished his sister hadn’t borrowed the car.

“This is always degrading.”

“Oh, stop being a baby. We’re going to have fun tonight!”

*thunk*

Carl, knowing he really was sounding like a baby, resolved to be positive about the situation. El was right; he was being a downer. Acting like that will only guarantee having a crappy time.

*swish*

“Fine, I’ll be nice and happy for the rest of the night. I promise. Here: Big smile for ya!”

Carl then opened both his mouth and eyes wide to give El a creepy, clown-like smile.

El winced and remarked, “I hate it when you make that face.”

“What face?” Carl asked, his smile even wider, his bright white teeth glistening in the moonlight.

“I have absolutely no issues dropping you.”

*thunk*

“You’re just uncomfortable because of all our sexual tension. But seriously, I’m still not sure why you wanted me to go.”

*swish*

“What? Because you’re my best friend! Why wouldn’t I want you there? And…”

El opened his nostrils wide and sniffed.

*thunk*

“…and what’s that smell?” he asked, once again wincing.

Carl began to think maybe he should’ve put on a different pair of pants.

*swish*

Changing the subject, Carl asked, “So, umm…who’s all gonna be there?”

“Errrrbody gonna be there! And I’m glad you got dressed up for it,” El replied, mocking his shirt. “Baby Gap have a half-off sale?”

“Psh,” Carl replied, “I love this shirt. Haters gonna hate.”

*thunk*

“Well at least it shows off your new build. Little Carl putting on some muscle over the summer…”

*swish*

“…I can hear the ladies dripping from all the way up here.”

“Jesus Christ, El…”

“What? Anyway…”

*thunk*

“…we’re here. Look alive, bud!” El said, followed by a pat on the back that was a little too hard, causing Carl to stumble forward.

“Dude, you really, really need to remember to hold back more.”

“Hey, Muscles, sorry! I thought you could handle it.”

“Asshole.”

“Love you, too. Also, do me a favor and, every instinct you have, do the exact opposite of that.”

“I’m here, ain’t I?”

“Fair point. Aight,” El said, “time to get our groove on.”


TO BE CONTINUED


The inaugural post of Empowered wraps up! How does it compare to Wood You Be Mine? Which intro grabbed you more? Are you excited to see where the story goes? Was Carl too whiny? Was El too inappropriate (or not inappropriate enough?) You know I would love to hear your feedback, be it positive or negative, so let me know you think one Facebook or Twitter. Next week, all of you who’ve been reading along since Wood You Be Mine? will enjoy what happens? Why’s that? You’ll just have to come back next week and see! Hope to see you then!