For Part One, go here.
* * *
“Watch where you’re going!”
Damon’s bike skidded to a halt. He looked around, but he couldn’t see anyone. Just a strange cloud, like a pillar of smoke from somebody burning trash. But the voice had almost been in his ear.
He had never been to this part of the district before. This neighborhood was two blocks up the hill from where he lived, but it didn’t look much different from his own neighborhood. White clapboard houses and brick bungalows dotted neatly kept yards with trees and street lights all around. In one of yards, a woman raked leaves and two small children played. They didn’t act as if they’d heard anything.
Rattled, he started to say, “Who are you?” and “Where are you?” at the same time. It came out as “Woo are you?”
“Ha! Dumb kid can’t talk.” This time, the voice was right in front of Damon. It was a kid’s voice, deep and nasal.
“I’m not dumb!” Damon shouted. The woman and two children looked at him.
Damon felt as he wanted to crawl into the nearby sewer. He started to pedal away, but the bike wouldn’t move.
“You can’t go,” the voice said.
It felt as if someone were standing in front of him and holding onto the handlebars, but there was no one there, only the cloud, which grew thicker and thicker, until it transformed into a grinning face.
“You’re not supposed to use your powers in public,” Damon said.
“You can if you’re one of us!” another voice said. Damon looked up to see a boy with bat-like wings connecting his arms to his body. The boy flew around and around. “Don’t you know about the special clubs?”
“The district lets kids form clubs so we can learn to use our powers,” said the cloud-face which expanded into a blocky boy, much bigger than Damon. “Don’t you have a special club in your neighborhood?”
“No,” Damon said.
“That’s too bad,” the cloud boy said. “‘cause if you’re part of a special club, you can use your powers in public. The district lets you do whatever you want.”
“Why would they do that?” said Damon, skeptically.
“Who knows?” said the batwing boy. “Maybe they’re training us to be an army of some kind.” He landed next to Damon. He was tall and thin, his face contorted into a goofy smile.
“Or maybe they just want to see what we can do,” said the cloud boy, “so we can work together as a team and get rid of the weak kids. What’s your name?”
“Damon. What’s yours?”
The batwing boy's goofy grin turned into a scowl. “You don’t get to ask us our names! This is our neighborhood. You don’t belong here.”
“Yeah,” said the cloud boy, “and since we can use our powers in public and you can’t, that means we can do anything we want to you.”
Damon felt a chill go down his spine. He looked over to the yard where the woman was raking leaves, but she was pushing her two children inside her house.
“Now,” said the cloud boy, gripping the handlebars of Damon’s bike, “give us your bike.”
* * *
Five minutes later, Damon ran all the way home. He had put up a fight, but it was no use. Even if he had been allowed to use his darkspace, it would have come too slowly. The cloud boy had puffed his cheeks and blew Damon right off the seat of his bike. Damon tried to fight back, but it was no use against a boy whose bat wings could pummel Damon from all sides. Damon took off only when the cloud boy said he was going to call in some other members of his special club. Besides, there was no point in fighting them. Damon would simply tell his mother that two boys had stolen his bicycle. Mom would call the district police, who would take care of it.
Damon’s house stood on the corner of 92nd and Felcher Streets. The two-story looked like a mansion compared to the smaller houses on the same block. Its triangle roof arced down on both sides of the north-facing side while the east side of the house jutted out from the overhang. A semi-circle porch stretched from the front door all around the east side and overlooked a concrete retaining wall that bordered the sidewalk like a garrison. One of Damon’s friends said the house looked like a castle. Damon liked that idea and, even now, he pretended he was a knight who had been accosted by highwaymen. He would tell “the queen” what had happened and she would send for reinforcements.
Damon leaped up the five stairs leading the back yard and zoomed past his brother, Eldon, who was playing with some friends. The younger boys shouted at him, but he paid no attention. He did not want them to see him in this condition.
“What happened?” his mother asked with alarm when he entered the kitchen.
Rapidly and out of breath, Damon told her everything. When he had finished, his mother took a paper towel and began to blot his cut lip. “Hold still,” she said.
“Mom!” he said. Where are your priorities? The bloody lip can wait. “Call the police so they can get my bike back!”
“Don’t worry about your bike. Your father and I will buy you a new one next spring.”
She lowered the paper towel and sat back in her kitchen chair. “You said that the boys were part of a special club?”
“That’s what they said.”
“Well, they were probably right. Remember when we first moved to the district and your dad’s car was stolen?”
“Well, it wasn’t really stolen. It was destroyed by someone who could collapse metal on itself. When your dad reported it to the police, they said that sometimes kids who belong to special clubs are allowed to do things like that so the district can see what they can do. The district gave your father a new car, but he had to promise not to say what had really happened.”
Damon thought this over. The new car was smaller than the one he had been told was stolen. It had only an AM/FM stereo, not a CD player. It didn’t even have electric windows.
“Anyway,” his mother was saying, “if you keep quiet about this, maybe the district will buy you a new bicycle, too.”
“No way!” Damon said, convinced that the district would probably get him a smaller bike. “I want my old bike back.”
“I’m sorry, honey,” Mom said, brushing his hair in a way that told him there would be no reinforcements. The queen just sat there and wiped blood from her knight’s lip, which stung when she touched it. Damon felt like he had been stripped of honor.
“I want to join a special club,” he said.
“There aren’t any in this neighborhood,” she replied curtly.
“Then I’ll start one.”
“You’re too young. Besides, why do you want to start a club? Just go outside and play with your brother and his friends. Forget about the bicycle.”
But Damon could not forget. He lived in the district because he had to, because he had a special power. But he couldn’t use that power in public—unless he joined a special club. Damon said nothing more about it, but secretly he decided that if a club ever got started in his neighborhood, he’d be the first to join.