I know—you’re still waiting for me to get back to that memo I mentioned way way back at the beginning. About why I escaped from my job that day and how it caused me a lot of problems. I thought I could make it clear if I started at the beginning. I’m not sure I could make it all make sense if I tried. I have tried to include the more relevant parts, more or less.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot that I would have left out—I had plenty of humiliation along the way, and the days where I was having a normal life or what came close to it for me were not really worth mentioning.
Which brings me back to this. The whole self-defense training.
Or maybe I should say the time when I discovered that I had no coordination whatsoever.
“I’m not going back there. I got beat up by five yearolds.”
“Well, in your defense, you were, what, five at the time?”
Clay lifted his head and glared at his roommate before ducking underneath the pillows again. He pulled his comforter over them and hoped he’d suffocate this time. “I was not five. I was myself. This is pathetic. I had to go back to the junior class with the toddlers first, and I barely worked my way up to the others. They ganged up on me and beat me up. I’m pathetic. It’s like my body won’t respond to my thoughts. I can’t seem to move with any kind of coordination. I never had problems like this before.”
“No one ever asked you to dance before, either.”
“It’s not a ballet class.”
“No, but if it was, you’d fall on your tutu’d butt.”
“Why is it that—even though you said that about me—I picture you in the tutu?” Clay demanded, trying to get that image out of his head. He couldn’t believe that was where his mind had taken it. At least there was a tutu and not the naked thing.
“I don’t know. Probably because you have issues.”
“I do have issues,” Clay agreed, sighing. He didn’t want to leave his bed, but he had work and class to think about. He’d have to get up eventually. He would find a way to live past the humiliation of that moment.
“Maybe if you tried learning as a smaller you. You did have to start at the beginning, but you could start at the beginning at the right age, and that would help?” Larabee suggested. “I’ve been trying to work on that stabilizer formula—I don’t like the idea much, personally, but I know that it means a lot to you not to have to keep your mind focused on the form you’re in—that and you’d really like to get rid of the random shift thing—but I keep thinking you’ll get this thing and quit.”
“Quit what? My job? School?”
“No! You’ll stop trying to be a hero,” Larabee said, yanking back the blankets. Clayton groaned. He didn’t think that he was ever going to be any kind of superhero. He refused to wear spandex, he couldn’t fight, and his power was lame. “You can’t give up on that. You know you can’t.”
“I would really like to be normal.”
“You’re never going to be normal. No one is normal.”
“Not the point.”
“I’ll let you test the latest stabilizer formula if you promise to keep being a hero.”
“Larabee, I am currently trying to hide under my pillow and pretend that the last week didn’t happen with all the classes and kids doing better than me and me falling down a lot and me being… well, me. I can’t do this. Can’t make my hands do what they’re supposed to, and all of a sudden, I’m on the ground. I am not a hero. I’m a joke. They all laugh at me. All those high pitched little voices, laughing in some kind of horrible unison.”
“I’m sure that’s not what happened.”
“You were filming it, Larabee. You know that’s what happened.”
“You put it on the internet already, didn’t you?”
“I’m not taking it,” Clayton said, shoving Larabee’s hand away as he did. He didn’t want to test that thing in public. No way. That had to be the worst idea possible. He’d get hives or swell up or go insane with the shifting and twitching until everyone thought he was a possessed freak and also dead.
“And if you shift out of that form in the middle of your class?”
“Then I run,” Clay answered, wishing he’d waited longer to shift into his five year old form. He could have avoided this part. He didn’t need to take that pill, and he wouldn’t, but he’d have a better chance at avoiding it if he wasn’t so tiny. He didn’t stand much of a chance against Larabee right now.
“Take it,” Larabee said, forcing the pill into Clay’s mouth. He tried not to swallow, but Larabee pushed him in past the door, and he stumbled over his own feet again, accidentally swallowing the pill as he did. “Have fun in class, kid.”
“Gonna kill you, Larabee.”
“You’ll have to learn to walk again first.”
Clayton glared at him. He didn’t understand why he’d lost the ability to walk, but maybe it was a side effect of his ability or the clothes or something like that. Maybe it was a sign that whatever he was—strange genetic freak or alien or mutant—was going wrong, and he was actually going to die or something.
Or maybe it was just time to be humiliated further. He didn’t know.
“You are like the other. The one who cannot be taught.”
“You have no idea,” Clay muttered, dusting himself off. Oh, that pill had been a very, very bad idea. He didn’t feel very good. This time he would probably end up puking, and then he’d get beat up by all the kids. They were so going to crush him.
“First positions,” the sensei ordered, and Clayton moved up with the others. He was feeling dizzy. Had Larabee given him these pills before? Maybe that explained the lack of coordination. He felt a bit drunk.
And he was five years old. This was a bad combination.
It was kind of like dominoes. He stumbled again, bumping the kid next to him, and then one by one they all fell down, a tangled mess of white jumpsuits and tiny limbs. He winced as the saw it, but he was too dizzy to get back up again. He was staying right here.
He was not going to learn how to defend himself anytime soon.