Author’s Note: So… Cress’ introduction to the elements was traumatic. Both of them were, but this was the first.
Cress had a feeling it would rain today. He always seemed to know when it was going to rain—or when it would snow—he didn’t know why. He just had a bit of a sense for these things. His parents would look at each other and smile, and he didn’t know why they thought it was so funny. Oceana said they were water nuts, so why wouldn’t they like it? He didn’t know, but he didn’t find it as amusing as she did. She called him a wet blanket, and he’d shoved her off the side of the bed.
He was still apologizing for that one.
He sighed. They were late. They should know the schedule by now. He hadn’t asked to take swim lessons, and he did not like how they kept forgetting about him. This was their idea, so why couldn’t they pick him up on time at least once?
He felt a sudden chill, and he frowned, rubbing his hands over his arms. The sun was still out, and he wasn’t in the shade. He knew that rain was coming, but this didn’t feel like rain. He stepped back into the building as a shadow loomed over him. “You’re water, aren’t you?”
Funny, the man didn’t have an accent, but he was talking more like the family at the end of the block, the ones everyone called immigrants, like he didn’t know the right words. Cress didn’t know if he was trying to be friendly, but the guy gave him the creeps.
“The water’s inside. It’s a pool.”
The man reached for him, and Cress tried to pull away, but he caught his arm. He started to struggle, but the chill got worse. He couldn’t move. It was like he was frozen, but that didn’t make sense. He wasn’t too afraid to run, but he couldn’t. The man had him trapped, and he swore he was freezing to death in the middle of September.
The man smiled. “There. That’s better. You can hold still, and I’ll get a good look at you. I like knowing my competition.”
Cress tried to struggle, but everything was so cold, and he couldn’t seem to make his body respond. He should be terrified, but a part of him wanted to believe this was nothing more than a nightmare. People couldn’t freeze other people. That wasn’t possible.
“You’re different. I’ve never seen one of you so fearless before, even the ones who are water. Water keeps you calmer, but not this calm.”
He couldn’t answer. The man had him paralyzed, and a part of him was terrified, but he couldn’t react, so nothing would show, or so he assumed. He stared at the hand on his cheek, feeling sick to his stomach, wondering if this was one of those people that they warned about at school and everything—someone who qualified for stranger-danger, and he didn’t know what he’d do if that was what was going to happen to him.
Why couldn’t he move?
“I bet you can feel the rain, too.”
He was dreaming. This was some kind of twisted nightmare, and when he opened his eyes, Occie would be laughing at him and shoving him out of the bed for being such a coward and screaming in his sleep.
“You’re going to be one to watch, aren’t you? I bet you’ll be almost unstoppable when you get older. I can’t wait to see what you do with it. You think you can make it rain? Can you make it flood? What does it feel like in that pool? A violation or like home? I find the chlorine is like an invasion, but others don’t care.”
Cress wanted him to let go. He didn’t want to think about his man watching him swim. He felt like throwing up, but if he was frozen, he couldn’t vomit. He managed to swallow, choked out a couple words. “Let… go…”
“Oh, yes, of course. You and I will meet again. I look forward to seeing what you’re capable of. We’ll have to see who’s better at it. I can do impressive things with water, but I bet you’ll find ways to use it that I haven’t.”
The man let go, stepping back with a smile. He laughed as Cress shivered and tried to get warm, walking away like what he’d done was nothing. Cress glared after him. The man was a lunatic, but if he could control water, he’d make it rain all right. He’d make it rain so much that it drowned that man.
He curled up against the building. He would never take another swimming lesson again. He was not coming back here. He wouldn’t ever come back. He couldn’t explain what happened, but he didn’t know that he wanted to know.
He just wanted to go home.