A few days passed. Olivia fell into a routine, and that Monday was no exception. She woke, yearned for a shower, and changed out of yesterday’s clothes to the freshest available. In the kitchen, she opened up the cupboards where she kept the food she’d found from around the city, using her knuckles to avoid gouging the wooden door with her claws. Half a bag of beef jerky a careless drunk at a gas station had thrown out and a sugary cinnamon bun wrapped in a thin plastic wrapper composed of breakfast, followed by the last of her unopened water bottles. She had kept several used ones, filling them up at public water fountains. Olivia had also found a clock in the trashcan behind a house, but hadn’t managed to scavenge batteries for it yet, so she wasn’t sure of the exact time. Regardless, the sun had just set, so she had a while before she could leave.
She got up from her makeshift table and carved the tenth mark on the wall beside the front door with a claw. I’m not going to forget who I am, even if it means have to carve my life story on the walls. I’m not starting over again. She hadn’t had any memory problems, besides where hers cut off ten days ago. If it happened once, it could happen again.
That done, Olivia cleaned her apartment, throwing discarded wrappers and shredded bits of fabric into an old trash bag with only a few holes in it. There was no one to judge her for not cleaning, but it wasn’t as though she had anything better to do. She found her nose didn’t torture her nearly as much the cleaner she kept her apartment. She had been growing used to the constant assault of the city on her senses, which didn’t mean she enjoyed it in the slightest. She could recognize the stale, unwashed odor of a homeless person long before one could catch a glimpse of her at this point. When she focused, she could tell roughly by ear where and how fast cars were going, provided there weren’t too many. Like flying, her senses got better, or at least more tolerable, with familiarity.
Cleaning finished, she got around to reading a paper she had somewhat accidentally pried out of its vending machine thingy last night. She wasn’t certain on the right name, but vending machine thingy got the point across. She tried opening one that was stocked, just to see if it would maybe open and yanked the door off its hinges. She looked around to see if anyone had witnessed that little incident. After considering the situation for a moment, she quietly took a paper and put the door back as best she could.
Olivia spread out the paper in front of her, elbows resting on the table. The front article was about the state governor’s recently uncovered scandal. Something involving several young men and women, an unabridged dictionary, and several gallons of lead based paint. The article started delving into the strange details of exactly what had happened, and she quickly flipped the page, her finger leaving a small tear at the edge. No, I don’t want to know what exotic positions they were in, or exactly why the paint was lead based. Thank you for that.
The next page mentioned a war. Olivia’s brow furrowed as she read on. Two terrorists had triggered and thrown themselves at an army base in a place called Herat, Afghanistan. According to a military spokesman, they had been “neutralized” with minimum casualties. Unfortunately, minimum did not mean none, as one of the casualties was a Colorado native. There was no word on what powers the terrorists had manifested.
Olivia paused on the part about manifesting powers. The paper had treated the concept as rote, so it was apparently common knowledge. Is that what happened to me? The next section that caught her eye: Local Supers. The first article was an interview with someone named Cyrus, who had stopped someone with fire powers from lighting an orphanage on fire. The article referred to him as the head of the meta-human unit of the Westward City police force, but was otherwise frustratingly lacking in any interesting details.
The other article was a longer piece on the trial of a criminal named Anthony Leighty, charged with murder and robbery, whose case had been thrown out due to a technicality. Many people called foul play, as his powers were mainly deception based, but the records showed that he was not allowed to speak a word directly to anyone since his arrest. Ads composed the rest of that section of the paper. In fact, a lot of the newspaper was ads, even for a Sunday paper. The few other articles printed were trivial, like ducklings with their mother seen crossing a busy street or something.
She finished the paper, looked up to the window of the room, and listened. No sunlight came through, and she only heard the sounds of a few moving nearby cars. Putting the paper aside on the table in front of her, she eagerly ran to the roof top, ducking her head and folded wings under the doorways. She paused for a moment once she reached the roof, checking the streets for any bystanders she may have missed. She ran a couple steps the instant she was confident the coast was clear and leapt. Yeah!
Flying was fantastic. She flew at twice the height of most of the buildings in the area, though the downtown skyscrapers still loomed above her to the north. Her speed was about that of a moving car if she did it right. She couldn’t quite keep pace with the vehicles on the highways, but that was just another benchmark for her to reach. Olivia didn’t have to worry about anything in the air. No need to run around on the streets, torturing herself with anxiety that she had missed something or someone. No, no, none of that. No need to distract herself with thoughts of food or the future. She instead focused on keeping herself aloft. No one ever looked towards the sky, and besides, she was too far up and it was too dark to see her from the ground anyways. She, however, could see nearly everything going on below her.
An hour passed as she glided over the city, occasionally swooping down for the rush of air past her face. Finally, she decided to see if there was any food to be found. She landed onto a building overlooking what she referred to as the donut strip mall, the first notable place outside of her apartment building that she had any memory of visiting. Before any opportunities for food or water caught her eye, she heard yelling from across a parking lot. Mostly cries of anger. She hesitated, then decided to look. Just… just to see what’s going on. Nothing more. She flew to the top of an office building closer to where the shouting had originated from, and focused entirely on what was happening below her, not wanting to believe.
Three men surrounded a woman with her back pressed against a wall. One man held a hand to his ribs, glaring at the woman through an impressive black eye. Another man held the woman in place with a firm grip on her upper arm and a knife shoved under her throat. The third looked on with crossed arms and an unpleasant smile on his face. The injured man did not grin, in fact unleashing a torrent of profanity at the woman. The woman for her part glared right back at the trio in spite of the knife.
Olivia froze. There was no one else nearby. The surroundings were composed of closed stores and offices and empty parking lots. Surely someone would have done something by now if they were there, like call the police. But she heard no sirens coming their way. What do I do? I don’t have a phone. Shouting for help hadn’t only brought Olivia. What could she do against three men, at least one of whom was armed? She had no experience fighting anyone, she didn’t want to hurt anyone. What am I doing? She could die. No one else is here.
She leapt from the top of the building and glided towards the people. She nearly tripped over the claws she had in place of heels as she landed, though she went unnoticed by the men or woman. “Hey! What do you think you’re doing?” Olivia yelled, marching towards them, pointing in their general vicinity. Her other hand was in a fist. The grinning man and black eye turned, the one with the knife not moving.
“Fuck off,” called out the one with the knife, his eyes still fixed on the woman.
At the same time the grinning man and black eye turned to Olivia and froze. “What the fuck?” said grinning man as his grin slid off his face. The woman and two men stared in shock at Olivia.
The knife wielder had his back to Olivia, but lowered his knife a bit and turned to get a look at her. He didn’t break and run, but tightened his grip on the knife and turned to face her, shifting his free hand from the woman’s upper arm to her throat. The third man’s hand drifted to his back. Leave her alone.
She uncurled her hands, revealing the long, dark grey claws, and snapped her wings outwards two feet to either side of her. That did the trick. Grinning man bolted down a nearby alley, followed closely by black eye and knife man, leaving the woman alone. Olivia faced the woman, who looked as though she might follow them. Olivia realized that her teeth were bared and she crouched slightly, ready to attack. She quickly straightened, folded her wings as best she could again, and curled her fingers, putting her hands behind her back. She realized she should probably say something instead of standing there being creepy.
“Um… Are you OK?” she asked the woman.
The woman’s eyes widened even further, but broke out of her shocked silence. “Yes, yes I’m fine.”
“OK. Do…” Olivia trailed off as she tried to figure out what she should say next. A scream cut through the silence from the alley the would-be muggers had fled down. She heard sounds of fighting: grunts, strikes of flesh being hit accompanied by cries of pain.
“Hang on,” she told the woman as she crept towards the alley. The woman hurried off towards what Olivia presumed to be safety. Hearing another cry of pain, Olivia turned a corner and stopped dead. A young man in black clothing and a metal mask stabbed the original knife man in the temple with a switchblade not five feet from her. Black eye was on the ground, Olivia could see blood trickling from his foot. The no longer grinning man lay collapsed next to him, grasping his throat and making choking sounds.
The masked man noticed Olivia out of the corner of his eye as the dead man fell. He took one second, muttered, “Shit,” and put his free hand to his belt, blocked from Olivia’s view. His mask was a full face, grey metal thing, depicting a grinning face from a comedy theater. What looked to be the butt of a long rifle poked over his left shoulder, and a bandolier of what Olivia guessed were grenades was slung across his right. He smelled of blood, chemicals, metal, and curiously, donuts. He didn’t even came up to Olivia’s shoulder.
Olivia and the man in black watched each other warily, unmoving. Olivia heard a sound and realized that she hissed softly. Again her teeth were bared, claws were out, and she was tensed, ready to lunge. She cut the hissing out and slowly began to back away towards the street behind her. The man didn’t move, didn’t react in any visible way. She reached the street, keeping an ear out for any following footsteps. The moment she realized there were none, she took off. She climbed to as high an altitude she could reach, circled wide a few times to ensure no one tracked her, and returned home.