Derek chuckled mildly to himself as he nervously bounced the small yellow pill in the palm of his hand. Once I ingest this one little pill, he thought, my biology will be permanently altered. He paused his hand, and pondered for a brief moment.
He shrugged. Worth it.
He clapped his hand to his open mouth and picked up the glass of water before him. A faint objection of last chance trailed through his mind before disappearing forever. He chased the pill with the water, swallowing until the glass was empty. He slammed the glass down on the table and stood up, looking around as if with new eyes.
“What am I doing?” Derek laughed. “It’ll take at least half an hour for anything to develop.”
He turned to sit in his recliner next to the ornamental plant that his mother had left him upon her demise. Reaching for the remote control, he popped the footrest up and turned the television on. After just a few minutes of flipping through the channels, the remote slipped from his fingers as a soft snore slipped from his lips.
A thin line of drool crept from the corner of his mouth, and the first hairs landed on his shoulder. Within six minutes, Derek was completely bald.
Fourteen hours later he woke with a start. He shook his head, trying to clear it, and noticed the cool breeze across his scalp. His right hand crept up above the place where his eyebrows used to be, and his eyes widened as he brushed the final loose hairs from his skin.
He kicked the recliner down and leaped across the room to the bathroom to freeze in front of the mirror, his knuckles whitening as he gripped the sides of the sink.
Derek squeezed his eyes tightly closed until his cheeks began to hurt, and opened them again. Still bald, and not a single psychic power to be found. He took a step back and stumbled against the bathroom door, knocking the knob into the stopper on the wall behind. The sound startled him, and he jumped back forward, nearly falling into the sink.
“No. Take a breath, man,” he told himself, and he paused for a deep breath. He felt his mind begin to clear, to push the worries to the side, making room for bigger and better thoughts. He felt an itching deep inside his mind, a need for…something.
He whipped around to his left and pointed at his mother’s ornamental plant.
The pot shattered, and a smile appeared on Derek’s face.
“I think I can work with this,” he nodded, the grin growing wider and wider. “I can definitely work with this.”
Elaine leaned farther out the window, stretching the muscles in her arms to their limits. She closed her eyes and smiled at the breeze that caressed her cheeks, cooling the fever that raged inside her.
Her mother interrupted the bonding session Elaine was enjoying with Mother Nature.
“Get back in your bed, girl! Aren’t you afraid of catching your death of cold?”
“I’m not afraid of anything,” answered Elaine.
“You’ll be afraid of your father’s belt if you don’t listen to me, now get!”
“I’m not afraid of anything,” Elaine insisted. “But I’ll get in bed to make you feel better.” Slowly, she reversed herself from the window and returned to her bed, where she snuggled deeply into the covers and winked at her long-suffering mother.
“Sassy,” Susan muttered to herself as she turned and left the room, firmly shutting the door behind her. “I need a drink.”
Elaine cracked her door open to listen to the voices raise in disharmony, as they did nearly every night at this time.
“That child is going to be the death of me, Scott. She’s so willful every single day, and she just says that she isn’t afraid of anything. You know she says it, she tells you, too.”
“It’s true, though, Susan. She really isn’t afraid of anything. She never cried when she was a baby; she never asked us to check anywhere for monsters. For crying out loud, think of Halloween! She laughs every year, no matter what I do to scare her. None of it works. I don’t know why you think you have to punish her for being herself.”
“I punish her for being disobedient! I’m her mother, she has to listen to me. She has to do as I say, or there will be consequences.”
“Elaine doesn’t care about consequences. She only wants to live each day with her eyes wide open. If the world is anyone’s oyster, Susan, it’s Elaine’s.”
“You are absolutely no help at all, Scott. You’re practically as bad as she is!”
Elaine ducked back into her room as her mother stormed by and slammed the bedroom door shut behind her anger. It wouldn’t do to let Susan find out that she’d been listening; Elaine had a much larger plan.
Elaine knew it was time to make her move when she saw the clock ticking out nine thirty in the morning, and her mother was already mixing vodka into her orange juice. Day by day, the hour crept up and up until Susan was drinking well before noon. At this rate, she would be sloshed by eleven.
“I’m going to the park, Mother dear,” Elaine called around the corner to Susan, who huddled at the kitchen table around her cocktail.
“You’re no such anything, fraidy-cat. Siddown and shuddup,” came the mushy answer.
Elaine smiled at her mother. “I’m not afraid of anything.” With that, she danced and skipped around the kitchen, a careful eye on her mother to check her fury level. When it reached critical mass, once more: “I’m not afraid of anything.”
And she kicked Susan’s chair out from beneath her.
As Susan stumbled around the room, desperate to regain her bearings, Elaine darted out the door and across the street, unaware of the high pitched screech of tires, the cacophony of angry horns, and the horrifying sound of warping metal against shattering glass.
When Susan finally reached the front door, she looked out on a veritable horrorshow. The Williams family had been returning from their annual summer trip to Disneyland, and when Elaine had skipped across the street, Mr Williams had overcompensated and rolled the blue SUV.
The baby was dead in Susan’s yard, and Elaine screamed from the sidewalk across the street.
“I’m not afraid of anything!”