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The assignment was to write about a gift. I've recently been watching a TV series about a group of teenagers who have super powers. They get their powers as a result of an electrical storm. I didn't like that -- I wanted something a bit more controlled. So I wrote this...


The Gift


"Do you suppose it will hurt?" asked David. He sounded anxious.

"Of course not," said Nathan, scornfully. "It’s a gift, not a punishment. Why would it hurt?"

David still didn’t look convinced, but he didn’t ask any more questions. He just waited patiently as the queue sidled slowly forward. David and Nathan, along with everybody else in their year at school, were lining up to receive the gift that would define how they would live out the rest of their lives. People sometimes called it God’s Gift. It came in the form of a small injection which unlocked the potential for a superpower that everyone had hidden in their genes but which would lie completely dormant until such time as the injection activated it. In order to make sure that nobody missed out on getting their gift, the injection was routinely given to all children in their third year of secondary school.

Exactly what form a person’s gift would take depended to a large extent on the genetic make up they had inherited from their parents. But there was also a certain randomness built in to the process, so it was quite impossible to predict exactly what gift you would end up with. You just had to wait and see what happened to you after you’d had your injection. Consequently both David and Nathan were feeling a little bit apprehensive as they shuffled along in the slowly moving queue.

"What do you think you’ll get?" asked Nathan.

David shrugged. "I don’t think there’s any question about it," he said. "Mum and dad can both turn themselves invisible, so I’m pretty sure I’ll have inherited the same gift. What about you?"

"No idea," said Nathan. "Dad can see through walls and mum can read minds. So who knows what I’ll end up with. My sister’s gift was the ability to make her skin turn green on alternate Thursdays. Sometimes, if she’s having a good Thursday, she can turn it purple, but mostly she goes green. Where did that come from, and what possible use can it be?"

"She could always enter an Incredible Hulk look-alike contest," suggested David.

"No," said Nathan. "That won’t work. She’s far too skinny. They’d disqualify her in the first round."

Time passed and eventually David and Nathan arrived at the injection station. The nurse who was loading the syringes smiled and said, "Just roll your shirt sleeve up a bit please." They did so, and she injected each of them in turn. Then she winked at them with a dark brown eye that she opened in the middle of her forehead. "All done," she said cheerfully, and they moved on feeling strangely comforted by her winking eye. Probably that was her gift, thought David. Maybe it was why she’d taken up nursing in the first place.

"Well that was fun," he said, rubbing his arm. "For very small values of fun, of course."

"I don’t feel any different," said Nathan. "Perhaps I didn’t get a gift at all. Perhaps the things I inherited from my parents cancelled each other out and I ended up with nothing. What about you? I can still see you. You haven’t gone invisible yet."

"I’m not sure how to," said David. "Mum and dad seem to be able to turn their gift on and off at will, but I have no idea how they do it. I do know that they aren’t invisible all the time. Generally they only vanish from view when they want to keep an eye on me to make sure I’m not doing anything I shouldn’t be doing. It’s really annoying to settle down comfortably with a copy of dad’s Playboy magazine only to have an invisible mother snatch it out of my hands when I reach the centrefold."

"Yes," said Nathan. "I can see how that might be quite frustrating."

They wandered out into the school playground and a voice said, "Hey, dickheads! What did you get?"

"Bugger," muttered Nathan under his breath. It was Roland Stott, the class psychopath, Nathan’s nemesis, and his constant persecutor.

"We’re not sure," said David, trying to calm the situation down. "We’re still waiting for our gifts to kick in."

"Huh!" said Roland scornfully. "I bet you got something really wimpy." He poked Nathan in the chest, hard enough to make him stagger backwards a pace or two. "Come on," sneered Roland. "Show me your superpower." He poked Nathan again. "Can your gift rescue you from mine? If I concentrate hard, I can make your fingernails fall out. Like this!" His brow furrowed and he made low grunting noises.

Years of frustrated anger finally came home to roost. Nathan growled softly and lowered his head. David saw a horn start to grow out of the top of Nathan’s skull. It pushed his floppy hair to one side as it got larger and longer. Soon the horn had turned into a thin, vicious looking spear which David thought made Nathan look rather like a shaggy unicorn.

Nathan ran towards Roland and the momentum of his charge drove the horn deep into Roland’s chest. David could see several inches of horn protruding from Roland’s back. Gobbets of nameless flesh that had been dragged from somewhere deep inside Roland’s body were stuck to it. Blood gushed along the horn and dripped slowly from the end. Roland’s eyes widened with shock and his mouth opened closed as he screamed in silent agony.

Then Nathan slowly backed away from Roland, withdrawing his horn from the wound as he did so. There was a sickening, sucking sound as the horn pulled away from the bloody, clinging flesh. Nathan smiled gleefully at the blood that stained Roland’s shirt a deep, vivid red. "Yes, it can rescue me, you bastard," said Nathan. "I hope that hurts. I hope it hurts a lot."

As Nathan’s anger subsided, so did his horn. David watched, astonished as it grew smaller and smaller. It retreated inside Nathan’s skull, and as it did so Roland’s wound began to close up in time with the disappearing horn. When Nathan’s horn finally vanished from view, the wound had completely healed itself. All that remained of it was the big red stain on Roland’s shirt, acting as a reminder to him that perhaps it would no longer be a good idea to pick on Nathan. Roland poked at his chest with an experimental finger. "Bloody hell," he said in astonishment, and he walked away a little unsteadily.

"That was fun," said Nathan.

"It’s a much more useful gift than being able to turn your skin green on alternate Thursdays," agreed David.

"Meanwhile," said Nathan, "what about you? I can still see you."

"I tried to go invisible while you were dealing with Roland," said David, "so that he wouldn’t turn his attention to me. But I don’t think it worked."

"Try again," suggested Nathan. "Let me see if anything happens."

David started to concentrate, thinking invisible thoughts. I’m not here, he told himself firmly. You can’t see me. Suddenly Nathan started to laugh. David looked up at him. "What?" he said.

"Your left leg went invisible," said Nathan, "but the rest of you just stayed there in plain sight."

"Only my left leg?" David asked, feeling rather disappointed.

"That’s right," agreed Nathan. "Or perhaps I should say that’s left."

"What good is having an invisible left leg?" asked David. "How can I do anything useful with that?"

"You could try auditioning for the school play," suggested Nathan. "They are doing Treasure Island this year. With an invisible left leg you’d be bound to get the part of Long John Silver."


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