MARCH 27, 2015
VIRGINIA HIGH SCHOOL
Isaac is making his way through the cafeteria with his lunch, scanning the room for an empty table, when he hears Buddy call out.
He stops, clenching his jaw, and presses his eyes shut against the crest of anger that sparks under his skin. He can feel the red plastic tray beginning to liquify under the sudden heat at his fingertips.
“I said hey, asshole! I’m talkin’ to you.”
He turns on his heel to find Buddy standing in his face. The boy pokes one fat finger roughly into his chest, and Isaac’s soup sloshes out of the bowl and onto his shirt. He feels a stirring within, like a power surge, and bites the inside of his cheek to force it back.
“Stay away from my sister, you fuckin’ freak.”
Isaac swallows, tastes blood. He knows about Alice. Shit.
“We’re going to have a little fun with your face. What do you think about that, freak?”
Others take notice, the rustling of forks against plastic trays quiets, but the cafeteria monitor is nowhere to be seen.
As usual, Isaac thinks, gaze shifting back and forth between the boys, three of them this time. He recognizes the others as Mason Perry and Ethan Carroll, and a glance into their minds reveals they’re all thinking the same thing.
…kick his ass…
Isaac can hold his own in a fistfight, but he’s no match for three. There’s no other choice.
He shoves his lunch tray at the boy, letting it fall to the floor in a mess of milk and soup, and bolts for the cafeteria’s back door. He hits the Emergency exit and careens away from the building to the sounds of Buddy barking orders behind him.
Buddy is too clumsy to be fast, but Isaac can hear his friends’ staggered breathing at his neck. He hesitates at the curb, almost tripping over himself, and in this critical moment of indecision he feels two beefy hands clamp around his upper arms.
“Let…go! Goddamnit, get…off…”
He struggles, twisting and wheeling, but Mason and Ethan have a strong grip on his shoulders, pinning his arms behind his back. Buddy, red-faced and wild-eyed, is approaching with a smug, murderous sneer.
He really doesn’t care, Isaac thinks with a kind of horrified wonder. He’s crazy, he’ll kill me.
He tries to dodge, hoping to throw the other boys off balance, but his head connects with Buddy’s fist, and his ear rings with the force of the blow. The only thing holding him up is Mason and Ethan.
“Not such a tough guy now, huh?”
Isaac struggles and writhes, trying to breathe away the pain in his head so he can think, but Buddy delivers another blow, this time to his stomach, causing him to double over.
“What do you have to say about that, you little pussy? Huh? Huh?”
Isaac gasps, trying to remember how to breathe, before forcing himself to make eye contact. “Fuck…you…”
The look of dumb rage on Buddy’s face is matched only by Isaac’s own. He can feel the energy rising within him, and for all his self-control, this time he’s not fully aware of what’s happening until it’s too late. Rage courses through him, searing hot and all-encompassing. He narrows his watering eyes, feels the heat radiating down his arms, outward into his hands, and suddenly Mason and Ethan are screaming.
Their fingers, wrapped tightly around Isaac’s upper arms, are burning. He can hear the popping, sizzling sound of their flesh against his.
Buddy’s preparing his third punch, this one meant for Isaac’s face, as the other boys fall back, clutching their blistering palms.
Isaac dodges the swing, then pushes his hand straight into the boy’s core. It’s no more than a light shove, his fingers barely graze the surface of Buddy’s meaty chest, but the boy is thrown backward twenty feet, colliding against the side of the brick building with a dull thud.
There’s a pregnant pause as Isaac leans on his knees, gritting his teeth, trying to regain control. The other boys stand, gaping at their friend, eyes glazed with shock.
“Let’s go!” Ethan’s voice is a strangled half-cry, and Mason squeaks an unintelligible agreement before they scatter, scrambling around the building before Isaac can turn on them.
Isaac spits a mixture of blood and bile onto the ground, panting as he stares at Buddy’s crumpled body. The boy lets out a low moan, but doesn’t stir.
Serves you right, you crazy fucker.
The feeling of triumph is short-lived. In the rush of the fight, Isaac hadn’t noticed the students gathering outside the cafeteria door, a human wall of bewildered disbelief.
Isaac opens his mouth to protest, to defend himself, but the words die on his tongue as a figure emerges from the crowd.
“What the hell is going—oh, Christ.”
Principal Henderson kneels over the collapsed boy, shouting for someone to call an ambulance. The cafeteria monitor has reappeared and is already herding the other students back into the school. Isaac can overhear them talking as they shuffle reluctantly in.
“Did you see that?”
“That was crazy!”
“Told you he was a freak.”
But Isaac is less concerned with his peers as he is with the man standing over Buddy’s groaning body, and what Mulder and Scully will say when they find out.
I am in so much trouble.
Isaac closes his eyes and counts the seconds, his stomach sinking like a lead weight. When he opens them again, the principal is standing in front of him, grave disappointment written on his round face, his next words tight and controlled.
“Young man…you need to come with me.”