"False Alarm": A Power Club Short Story (Part 2)
[I'm not quite sure this section is as strong as it needs to be. Feedback is appreciated.]
A police officer boarded the school bus and casually walked up and down the aisle, smiling at each child. Denise was well used to this practice by now, but it still unnerved her. It was a daily routine for officers to make sure no children with powers had snuck aboard the bus before it left the district. Denise didn’t know what would happen if they actually caught a kid with powers, but the idea had never bothered her until now.
Sheila Torvald, who sat in the seat next to Denise, whispered, “How can they tell if one of us has a power?”
“Maybe they can’t,” Denise whispered back. “Maybe they just want us to think they can.”
“Or maybe they look for kids who have moles in the center of their foreheads," piped Billy Underwood from the seat behind Denise. "That's how you can tell a kid's getting powers."
“That’s stupid!” Denise shot back.
“What are you kids whispering about?” said the policeman. He was now at the front of the bus. There was no way he could have heard them. Denise figured he probably had a power, too, like some district police officers did.
“Nothing!” Sheila, who liked to be in charge, answered for them all.
The policeman—a handsome man with grey eyes and straight eyebrows—approached them.
Denise looked away and pretended she was thinking of something else.
The policeman turned around, headed back to the front of the bus and announced, “All clear!” to the other border guards outside. After he left, the bus resumed its trip into the city.
After the bus passed the border gate, Denise raised a hand to feel her forehead.
“What are you doing?” Sheila chided her.
“I think I'm getting a cold,” Denise lied, and quickly rubbed her nose.
“What are you looking at?” Vee said with great annoyance as he looked up from the checker board.
Denise had been studying her brother’s face, looking for a mole anywhere—between his eyes, on his cheek, under his chin—but she could see no mole, unless it was hidden underneath his bangs.
“Do me a favor,” she said. “Do this.” She shook her head.
“Just do it.”
“MOM! Denise is telling me what to do again!”
“Denise, stop telling your brother what to do,” her mother called without looking up from the futon, where she sat pouring over research from work.
Denise glared at her brother. He always did what Denise told him to do when Mom wasn’t present. But when she was, he did whatever he pleased. Denise hated that.
Vee’s hand blurred over the checkerboard. The rapid sound of his black checker hitting the board in several spots sounded like tiny guns firing. When the blurring stopped, three of Denise’s red checkers had been removed from the board.
“I bet you didn’t see THAT coming!” Vee crowed.
Denise smiled. No, she hadn’t.
“Kids with powers do NOT have moles on their foreheads,” she told Billy Underwood the next day. “My brother doesn’t.”
“Neither does my sister,” echoed Sheila Torvald.
“I didn’t say every kid with a power has a mole,” Billy replied, nonplussed. “It’s only when they’re getting powers. My dad says the mole goes away after awhile.” Billy's dad, a dermatologist, should know, he asserted.
For the second time since yesterday, Denise felt the desire to feel her forehead for a mole. She had meant to check in the mirror last night or this morning when she was brushing her teeth, but she forgot. Her failure to predict Vee’s checkers move had put her mind at ease.
It was silly. She didn’t have a power and didn’t want one. As for the mole—Billy was just plain wrong, no matter what his dad had said.
The bus paused at a stoplight. Denise took the chance to study people the nearby buildings. One was older than the other buildings, yet it seemed majestic. Huge, rectangular windows held court over the street, and the paint of the building—once pristine white, she imagined—had faded to the color of dirty chalk. It wasn't a good looking building, but Denise found herself drawn to it.
Suddenly, flames came from nowhere and engulfed the building. The huge picture windows burst, sending glass everywhere.
Denise jumped as the smell of smoke surrounded her and filtered into the night sky. Night? But it’s still morning. A surge of panic overcame her as she turned to Sheila and Billy, but they continued to chat away, oblivious to what was going on. No one on the bus acted as if anything was wrong.
Denise turned back to the building, but its unbroken picture windows stood there in the morning sun, glaring at her as if she had seen something she wasn’t supposed to see. There were no flames.