Stand 23-IX | Anniversary Week #3

The Well-Organised Mind.

The street was clear now; all the civilians and the police had retreated. It was just me and the monster. If I could bring the station down, it wouldn’t hurt anyone else.

I just had to figure out how.

The support for the platform stretched up out of a building on the right, smooth, sleek steel struts. I couldn’t see any obvious signs of weakness, but there had to be something with that amount of groaning. I couldn’t bring the building down, but if I could get up to the support beam, that I could break.

And bring it all crumbling down.

If I could get to the building, get inside, I could climb the stairs and get to the top. I just had to get past the monster.

Fake her out.

I began hobble-running on a diagonal, clutching my ribs to reduce the pain. Paladin roared and charged me, and as soon as she did I immediately switched directions, zigzagging. It shot past me like a speeding train, too quick to change direction with me, and I swung at its side as it did, but whiffed it. Didn’t matter, though, that wasn’t the point. I had a clear shot to the building’s entrance. I could hear Paladin coming to a rough stop behind me, trying to turn around, but I didn’t look back. I was moving painfully slow, but I was almost there.

The crunching of tarmac behind me told me I wasn’t going to make it. Couldn’t move in time, couldn’t dodge. I crossed my fingers and ghosted.

Smoke blasted out of my midsection in a sideways mushroom cloud, just as Paladin reached me. For a few seconds, my vision was consumed with gold and the occasional flash of red, then I was watching it crash into the lobby of the building, tearing it open with her momentum.

I walked past it as it flailed around, trying to get its footing, and found the door to the fire stairs. I went to open it, but my hand passed straight through. I felt like I should laugh.

Once I was on the other side, I went solid again and began climbing the stairs. I was less, again; I felt it for sure this time. Hopefully, that wouldn’t matter for long. I held onto the handrail with a fierce grip, as every step sent tiny tremors of pain through my ribs. One step at a time. One step at a-

A spear of pain spiked through my chest. I lurched forward, a spray of blood shooting out of my move, the copper overriding the lingering bile. I coughed, hacking and raw, summoning more blood. I was sitting on the ground, my vision hazy and my lungs burning. The lights were different, darker. There weren't any skyscrapers around, and I could see the night sky, and I knew instantly I was back in my real body.

No! It wasn't complete, it didn't feel right. I could still feel the other body, sort of, like its senses were coming to me from the other end of a tunnel. I need to get back, I need-

Another gut-wrenching cough, like my lungs were collapsing. There was enough blood this time that some remained in my mouth, and I had to weakly turn my head to the side and spit to get it out.

I can’t be here. I can’t lose this now. I focused on the other body’s senses, still hanging above the ground, concentrating for everything it was worth. I pictured where I’d been, the sounds, the lights, the smells. And, not quite knowing what I was doing, I pushed-

I slammed back into the smoke clone, the jolt of it almost enough to make me lose my grip on the rail. I hadn’t fallen, thank goodness. I resumed climbing the stairs, ignoring the shaking from below me.

“Um, what the heck?! We’re just glossing over the fact that this is now apparently doing real damage to our real body?”

That’s for later.

“Everything’s always for lat-”

I snapped back again, lungs suddenly burning. I think my nose was bleeding.

NO.

Again, I pushed, and again, I returned. I gritted my teeth and kept on moving.

“Hannah! Whatever we’re doing, it’s clearly not what this power is supposed to, and that is causing us real, physical harm. You were being reckless before, fine, whatever. It wasn’t real. This? This is real. Our real body, the only one we have, is currently hacking up blood in a back alley, while we climb a building in order to drop a freaking train station on a monster! What is going on?! A week ago, we were stressing about a history test! Now we might die.

Who else?

“What?”

Who else is going to do it?

“It’s not your responsibility! You tried hard, you saved some people, and now you can step back before you die.

I didn’t save the police officers.

“They’re police! Yes, it’s awful that they died, but they knew the risks when they signed on for the job.”

I could have saved them.

I pushed open the door and stumbled out onto the roof, nearly losing my grip on the body again. The support was directly ahead of me, shining pillars of steel, and I dragged myself over to it. I could hear Paladin below, still flailing around in the lobby. Maybe it thought I was still down there.

I stared at the beams. They were thicker than my head. I hesitated for a second, but then my mind flashed back to the officer, lying on the ground, and I swung.

It was hard. Harder than it would’ve been if I was uninjured. My fist didn’t go all the way through. Didn’t even go half. I pulled it out, tried again, and this time it was torn in two. Panting heavily, I moved onto the next one.

The groans grew louder now, higher pitched. With a metallic squeal, I tore apart the next beam. And the next. And the next. And the-

There was a deceptively quiet snap. Then, a thunderously loud boom, and the screech of metal grating on metal.

I ghosted, and let the rubble rain down from above and bury the building.

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