By AllyTrish34, inspired by the FantasTeen novel of the same name. This is a continuation of Masai Giraffe Attack!, Coincidentally..., Devin Verona, Ghost Story, More Questions, Chances, Experiment, Trying out on My Own, and Strong Intentions.
Just like Devin, Mom vetoed my idea to go to school. But I won the "lawsuit", with a strict rule: Dad ships me off to school and Mom picks me up; always like that, until they're convinced enough that I'm no longer under the weather. Let's see who waves the white flag first. I only want them to return to their daily routines as soon as possible.
Gray clouds hang on the sky when Dad and I are moving past buildings in our Subaru. Recently, the skies have been gloomy, but no rain has fallen. Gusts of wind brush against us, almost knocking us off our feet, sticking dust and dustbunnies and fallen leaves on cars' windows. Insects fly by and collide onto cars' windshields, wiped away by wipers. Dad sprays them, that it shines. Damp windows attract more dirt. Dad looks like he may just lunge forward to punch our windshield, but he stays put with saucer-wide eyes and a closed mouth.
I bet he can't wait to go to the university, but he drives calmly. I almost explode into laughter because Dad seems like he's ready to confess his anxiety of everything close. Thank goodness, school isn't far away from our house, so I arrive at the school gate in no time.
"Thanks, Dad," I say, kissing his cheek and hopping down from the SUV. He waits for me to walk into the gate. I stop dead in my tracks for a second; out of the corner of my eyes, Dad's car zooms away like a speed demon.
When I arrive at the school entrance, footsteps thunder, getting close to me, and I hear Devin calling me. I roll my eyes at him. "Really, what's the matter if you run in the corridors once in a while?"
"I won't run, unless extraterrestrials are invading our school," answers Devin. He snatches the book from my hands and my sling bag, too. "The heaviest thing a sick person can bring is a box of tissue."
I grin, spinning my locker combination key. "Do you have plans about the lab?"
Devin nods. "If things are desperate," he starts, shoving his hand into his backpack and pulling out a bag of gummy fish, bears, and worms in all sorts of colors and shapes, "we'll make an explosion."
I chortle, tapping his back. "Now that's the spirit."
* * *
Rafaela and Tristan offer me a lunchtime with them both, but I decline it. They don't get livid but only smile widely when Devin calls me from across the door.
I widen my eyes at them. "Stop smiling!" I spit.
We finish our lunch on the way — this time, rice and pork meatballs. Devin stops to buy a can of Sprite and continuously bawls about how he can't concoct a drink inside of the lab. I don't get why Devin always consumes things in a more complicated way: no loaves of bread before they are toasted, flavored carbonated drinks into mocktails.
Actually, we don't have to tiptoe, but we do it otherwise, for some reason. Carefully, Devin turns the doorknob and pushes it gently — making almost no sound — then shuts it just as gently. People who travel past the laboratory gawks at us because we move like in a slo-mo movie.
"I've searched him up in the net. This is rather a fruit-loop dude, but he's not supposed to be dangerous. Rumor has it that he exploded something in here, the lab, during some research or something." Devin looks me in my eyes. "Don't you conduct any insane experiment here. That's just the same as making chaotic waves."
"Again with being a disciplinary patrolman! What did you find in the internet?" I hiss.
Devin nods, then walks forward bravely. "Rhett Austin!" he says to a tall man. He wears a long white coat, his face is concave-shaped, and he's very skinny. His skin is mostly burned and scarred; his back shows bright red spots — no, they're not bleeding. His eyes bulge, as if he can prompt them to sproing anytime he wants. He stares at Devin, smiling wide like a kook, then waves his finger. One by one, Devin's gummy candies sneak away from his jean pockets, toward Rhett Austin.
Devin struggles to catch his confections, but they flit too fast. He starts to bitch, "You don't know how many times I get to buy candies? Okay, that was a fib, but no matter what, I LIKE GUMMY CANDIES! GIVE ME BACK MY CANDIES!"
Test tubes line up in the air, looking like tiny cannons. Inside them each is a whitish substance. Devin immediately figures out what it is, once multicolored gummy candies slide into each tube.
"Potassium chloride! Yolanda, duck!" he screams, shoving my head onto the floor, that we both look scattered on the cold, hard floor tiles.
Sounds of explosion and smoke fill the lab. The curtains close, shutting us off from the outside world. Devin crawls underneath the table, staying there with me. He hisses, "Don't make a sound."
I don't make a sound, let alone inhale/exhale. This time — just that time — I can hear them. The sound of Rhett Austin's footsteps in this dim laboratory; only shone by thin sunlight that makes it inside here through curtain gaps, giving eerie lighting to the floor tiles under. My voice gets stuck in my throat, trying to say something to Devin when above us dims.
Rhett Austin stands above us, smirking, showing off his maroon-stained, partly missing teeth. I notice that his hands are full with coagulated blood, and several other scars. And not just on his hands; his face, his feet, his neck. He gives me the creeps from a close distance. And he smells like piss.
"First of all," he says, holding a test tube in his hands. We two hold our breaths, gathering courage to move forward. Rhett Austin grins even wider. "Safety in lab."
He leans his test tube. I don't remember how, but we succeeded in gathering energy in our feet so we can flee from Rhett Austin. Devin and I part ways; me to the right and Devin to the left. Rhett Austin moves slowly, straight. We stop in the middle of the lab, so that Rhett Austin, Devin, and I make a straight line, converged.
Rhett grins like a teacher in the middle of explaining patiently. "Second," he says, "safety in lab."
Rhett raises his both index fingers, and overhead lightbulbs shatter. Devin and I run, hollering, protecting ourselves from shards. Rhett nears a cornered Devin. He's now pressed against a window, no way out.
"Devin!" I scream, flinging a Florence flask at Rhett; crashing one of his wounds, making more blood gush from it, just like dead insects, fallen leaves, and grime on Dad's car's windshield this morning. He doesn't care, continuing to corner Devin. I want to rush forward and save Devin, but I don't want to get hurt. So I stay still, bursting into tears.
He pulls out one tube from his pocket; I have no idea what's contained. Walking, walking, pulling out another tube. "Third," he says slowly, smirking wide, "safety in lab."
In a blink of an eye, everything happens. I think I may lose Devin today. But just before Rhett pours the contents of a test tube into the other, Devin shoves the curtains away, shouting, "YOU HAVE SAID 'SAFETY IN LAB' THREE TIMES!"
Curtains that smother windows open wide, letting the dim sunbeam of springtime blast through the lab, converging into one on Rhett Austin. He cries out, dropping his test tubes. Covering his face. Howling. This time, I hear his howl; sickening, earsplitting, and deafening. I cup my hand on each my ears, but I still hear it. Is this what Devin has to hear every day? I close my eyes, feeling the fear that Devin feels every day. When my eyes spring open, curtains are parked neatly at the horizontal ends of each window. Devin stands by the middle of a window, panting.
"That," Devin says breathlessly, wiping his cold-sweated forehead, "is for boosting my gummy candies."
A wide grin spreads across my face. I run toward him, feeling motherloving relieved. "You banished him!" I say, incredulous. "You banish him. How did you do it? Can you do this to the other ghosts?"
"I didn't banish him," he mutters. "Okay, I might as well as did, but I don't know how. You see, that lab dude always appeared in shadowy places; that's what I realized. You know I spend time in the lab and love bright places. I think, he's porphyric, you know porphyria, some kind of a vampiric disease? He's sensitive to light. Did you see his coagulated, blistered skin? I don't think the lab explosions were the only cause. He can't be exposed to any kind of light. That explains why he closed all the windows."
I narrow my eyes, studying his body. Devin continues to hold his arm. "Devin, are you injured? Because of the shards?" I turn him over, glass shards attached to his back. He grimaces in pain every time I pull them (gently). "You have to visit the nurse's office."
Devin remains still, watching the sports field. He looks upward, lightbulbs badly shattered. "According to you, how can we explain those?"
I have nothing to answer that. These lights will be hard to explain, and teachers will interrogate and ask us a lot of stuff like police officers toward a crime-scene eyewitness. We are really in big trouble. Just then, a woman — blond with bright green eyes — approaches us. She doesn't look like the ghosts I've met before; gentle, benevolent, warm. Weirdly, all the other ghosts send off cold presences, but this one is warm. Oh, well, she's probably not a ghost. Her warm presence makes me feel comfortable. She raises her two hands, and glass shards levitate, conjoining into lightbulbs, lighting the lab. She stares at me and gives a tiny smile. I gulp, but manage to smile thinly.
Devin looks at me with bright eyes. "Did you do this? Wicked pisser! Look, my wounds are gone! How did you do it?"
I shake my head. "I didn't do it, She did." I point to the woman next to him. "Do you see her?" I, unbeknown to him, scan the woman's brain. Her brain pattern consists of straight lines and complicated squiggles. She's definitely a chameleon.
That woman shakes his head. Devin looks over his shoulder, but she vanishes. "You saw something? Is there another ghost?"
I nod. "She disappeared just now. She fixed the lightbulbs. What a nice ghost."
Devin shrugs. "Maybe there are benevolent, nice ghosts, as well as those malevolent."
"That's weird," I blurt out, furrowing my brow. "I think I've never seen her...someplace." I muse as we exit this lab. Recess has been over for long. I don't know where to go now, but I guess, the answer is Out Of The Laboratory. I snap my fingers. "In your house. In your treehouse, tidying up your stuff. Did you see her?"
Devin stares at me, stumped. "There's never been a ghost in my treehouse."
Now it's my turn to get stumped. Totally stumped. "What? Really, I saw her. A beautiful blond lady with green eyes. She looks so nice..." I frown. I pull Devin closer toward me, scanning him closely. I feel my mouth opening. "Oh my God, she must be your mom. She must be. Aprilia Verona. I can't believe she's been hidden in plain sight!"
Devin's eyes widen to the size of saucers. "What...my mom?"
I nod, completely sure that it was Devin's mom, who's apparently a chameleon. A supernatural. I notice Devin's eyes reflecting like mirrors; bright green, just like his mom.
"I've never seen her in school days."
"She has the power of invisibility. She's a chameleon, and that's her default power," I explain. "Maybe, she doesn't want you to see her. Maybe, she doesn't want you to go looking for her. If you can see her."
"Of course I will go look for her! I want to perfect my cooking skills, I want her to listen to my stories, I want her to..."
I squeeze Devin's hand tight, so tight that she stops talking. I sharply look into his eyes, "That's why she doesn't want to show herself to you. She wants you to focus on your studies, not going down south just to visit her, because that will disturb your studies. I'm not talking about your enhanced strength as a were. And it looks like she doesn't want you to pay a visit to her house in North Carolina all year. I'm not saying that she wants to leave your family, but that's the truth."
Devin doesn't utter a single word as I talk. He thinks deeply. I know he's on the verge of crying. He wipes a tear with his shirt sleeve, then nods. I tap his shoulder. "Sorry, I was rude. She's a good parent. I should've been grateful to her."
Devin nods. "That's okay."
I hug him, steering him upward to the ceiling. Class is starting, we should go through it. "You don't hear sounds from your mom when you're not in NC?"
"No," Devin says.
"Your mom probably made a surprise visit because she knew you were having trouble."
Devin gazes at me. "Have you seen ghosts of your family members?"
I think of it carefully. Some of my blood relatives go to a better place through the past three years, but I have never seen any of them. I shake my head.
I nod, opening the sunroof above us. Tepid springtime wind brushes against us, drying our tears and cold sweat. I take a superdeep breath, as if it were my first time to inhale. Devin smiles at me, tapping my shoulder.
"So, we cut off class today?"