The machines were talking to me again. Hooked up to them, I couldn’t get away. Instead, I curled into a ball on the hospital table and closed my eyes tightly, imagining my normal life from before the fire. I was alone in the room, but the doors were not as thick as the staff thought.
“…the trauma awakened some mutation in her genome,” some doctor was telling the Fosters outside of the exam room. “I have a theory that many genomes have the ability to be mutated, granting people with extraordinary talents, such as Ms. Parker’s ability to hear electronics.”
“How did the trauma of a fire mutate her?” Mr. Foster asked.
“The fire was started from the lightning storm that night,” the doctor said. “Perhaps the electricity is what links Ms. Parker to the electronics, not the fire.”
“How can we help her?” Mrs. Foster asked.
“I don’t believe there is a cure,” the doctor said. “It’s quite a scientific breakthrough, actually. Imagine others with the ability to communicate with electronics. We could send robots to join the army with soldiers controlling them from a safe point–”
“We’re talking about a young girl, not a robot,” Mrs. Foster interrupted. “She just lost her parents–”
“Yes, yes, I apologize.” The doctor’s tone didn’t sound that sorry. “You may be doing all you can to help her now. Giving her a roof over her head, people she can rely on…”
But they’re not my family.
“…However, we would like you to continue bringing her here for testing,” the doctor continued. “We’ll do our best to find a way to alleviate these… uncomfortable sensations that she’s going through, perhaps learn more about it.”
“What about school?” Mr. Foster asked. “We’re still giving her some time off, but eventually she will have to go back. Will she be safe enough to continue at the high school?”
“That is to be determined, unfortunately,” the doctor said. “She’ll have to practice shutting out the electronics in order to function properly.”
Never thought I would want to go back to school, but if it meant getting rid of this damned mutation, then I’d do anything.
“Any suggestions on how she should practice?” Mrs. Foster asked.
The doctor paused before saying, “Just try to ignore them? Meditate? I’m sorry, but this is new to us as well.”
Thanks for nothing, Doc.
The door swung open again and I looked up at Mrs. Foster’s smiling face. I sat up without a word and let her pat my shoulder, resting her hand there while guiding me out of the hospital. My head was low, avoiding the other patrons of the place as we left.
Willow greeted me with homework once we returned to their house.
“I told the teachers you really weren’t up for it,” she said, “but they insisted that I bring this to you so you won’t fall too far behind. Mrs. Davis was pretty nice about it, actually, she said if you could just skim over this stuff, maybe read a bit of A Tale of Two Cities if you’re bored, then that’d be great. If not, don’t worry about it, she’ll get you caught up whenever you get back to school.”
“Thanks,” I said, and abandoned the pile of homework beside my desk and flopped onto my bed.
The mattress dipped down as Willow took a seat. “How are you feeling?”
“Like shit,” I said. I rolled over to look at her. “It’s just… It’s all so weird. At first, being back here, it was like the sleepovers we used to have during middle school. Now, though…” Hot tears prickled at the corner of my eyes. “I’ll never see them again… God, Will, my parents are–!”
My words crumbled with the hiccups and ragged breaths I took while trying to control my crying. Willow moved around the bed, coming closer.
“I’m sorry, Si,” she murmured. “I know that we can’t replace your family… but we’re here for you. You are one of us, okay? We won’t let you go–”
Willow’s hands touched my shoulders and she screamed. I shrieked as static sizzled between my friend and I, and she collapsed off of the bed, electricity dancing in her thick hair.
“What happened—Willow?” Basil was suddenly there, kneeling down by his baby sister. He looked up at me.
“I don’t know!” I had retreated to the very corner of my room, my face soaked with tears. “I don’t know, she tried to put her arm around me, and there was lightning, and I didn’t mean to…!”
My babbling became incoherent as their parents came into the room, and we rushed to the hospital for the second time that day.