LUCENT WOMEN ARE MANDATED TO REPORT THE PRESENCE OR ABSENCE OF ALL GIFTS, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO,
The lightning, the flash that marked my power, pulsed through my body, vibrating my cells and igniting my veins. Adrenaline was nothing compared to the vibrancy lightning afforded me. The powerful, electrical glow glimmered around me as I landed. I was revived when I flashed. My feet gently touched the metal rail as I arrived in the tunnel. The air tasted different here. It tasted different everywhere. Stale oxygen burned the insides of my nose and smelled like earth and smog.
French air tasted like bread.
Spanish air tasted like the ocean.
Portuguese air tasted like home.
The best places to land were alleys, tunnels, and if I could find them, caves. Caves were dark and quiet. If there were none available, alleys and unused subway routes did the trick.
Otherwise, the light in my wake could be seen for blocks—maybe miles.
Today was a tunnel kind of day.
I shouldn’t have to hide my gift— none of us should. We should be queens of the skies and land, revered for the ability to bend time and space—to accomplish feats that no physicist could work through on paper.
Instead, we were forced to hide in the folds of society, pretending to be ordinary.
We were anything but normal.
A noise echoed through the tunnel. My chest pounded—as I was overcome by paranoia. I turned to find the noise’s owner. With a squeak came a tiny mouse, who in these tunnels conjured a great sound. The rodent scrambled into a hole, leaving the tunnel once again quiet.
I hated hiding what I was just because humans were fearful.
I’d memorized the underground system of Japan by heart a long time ago when I’d once flashed into a tunnel being used by eager heroin junkies. I still said a little prayer every night for those unfortunate souls—their situation was just too sad. I prayed that they got better. I prayed they chalked up my appearance to meth-induced hysteria. I prayed they believed in ghosts and keeping their mouths shut in favor of reporting me to the news.
I didn’t make the mistake of flashing to that particular tunnel again.
How pitiful was it that an
advanced race, such as we, was forced to creep along with criminals to avoid unnecessary persecution—or worse?
In order to do my job—I had to.
My job required fast—and I was damned good at it. I was faster than fast.
I was lightning.
The postal service and FedEx were quick and regular companies had to make do with them. However, I was faster, and to those companies who were so desperate that they could meet my steep fees—I was nearly indispensable. Considering my profession, most people didn’t find my prices high at all. In fact, I was pretty damned priceless.
So there I was, in the northernmost abandoned subway tunnel this side of Tokyo. I could hear the echoes of their high speed trains and railways as it was early in the morning and everyone was in full commute mode. The metal rails beneath my feet began to vibrate, and in their reverberation, called out to their kin, begging to be called to commission once again. Tokyo and Osaka were regular stomping grounds for me since software creators and executives had become privy to my specialized delivery system. They paid double my regular fees—sometimes triple. I could’ve easily demanded much more. The software protocol I was contracted to deliver this time sizzled in my pocket, and I couldn’t deny the prospect of the endless sins I could commit with one tiny USB drive.
I could run and hijack it for more money.
I could sell it to any of their competitors and make millions.
I could disappear with it, burying it deep in the catacombs of Palermo.
I could stow it away in a temple in Thailand or I could cover it in soot in a Mayan burial ground.
And by the time they reached it, if they ever found it, I’d have already moved it to the next hiding spot. How very exhilarating it was to be me and have my abilities.
I flashed again to the entrance of
the solemn tunnel where darkness met light and forced my legs to walk. It became difficult after flashing long distances. Like a mermaid switching from swimming to walking on land, such was my difficulty. But it only ever lasted a second and before I could really register the weakness, it had been replaced by the adrenaline from the flash. It pumped through my veins, filling me and my ego up with visions of invincibility.
Walking always made me feel
As I placed one foot in front of the other, looking around for video cameras, I thought about the YouTube videos which claimed that I was the disappearing girl and was thankful for the mythoclasts. I’d been in trouble more than once with the Lucent council for such sightings, but always managed to squirm my way out—most of the time because of Theo. Somehow, my connection to him had always been brought up and spotlighted—as if he was my only saving grace. The videos got me into the most trouble, but some I’d brought on myself out of pure boredom.
Don’t get me wrong, ninety-five percent of the videos were frauds, but three of them had actually caught me on tape. How, I didn’t know. Maybe they were just surveillance cameras or amateur voyeurs who’d gotten a lucky break. The videos showed no face, or shape, or any unique qualities except for my one defining feature—the light in my wake. The thing about our lightning was that each person had their own special version and it varied by the mood we were in. Each Lucent had their own palette, reminiscent of a mood ring. Theo often said mine was iridescent. He also claimed, as a stroke to his ego, that when I flashed away after one of our dates or him kissing me, that my lightning held tinges of pink.
It was complete bullshit, of course —I hated pink.
And nothing he ever did would make my light turn pink.
Everything he did made my light turn pink.
Shaking my head against unwanted memories, I stomped through the lines of people, crushed against each other, shoulder to shoulder, overpopulating the narrow streets, all moving toward their next meal, their next shift, or their next lover. From face to face, I searched for those like me, but there was no way to tell from a person’s face if they were Lucent. I wasn’t even sure why I tried. There was no way to really tell a human from a Lucent by physical appearance alone. We aged a little slower but still maintained the same life expectancy.
A smug grin overtook my face as I eyed the skyscrapers around me. My heart thundered in my ears, and I took inventory of each building. It would only take a second to be at the top of those buildings. I’d never ridden in an elevator in my life. I never would either.
I walked into the corporate headquarters and dialed the pre-plotted number in my disposable cell phone. I let it ring twice, and when the male voice answered, immediately hung up and diverted my path to the nearest restroom and locked the door behind me. That was his cue to clear the riff raff from his office. By riff raff, I meant loose-lipped humans who’d all jump at the chance to make the news—even in the capacity of a tattle-tale. But even the dumbest of Lucents knew how to prep for prevention of such things.
Before my first job with this company, they’d sent me a live-stream video of the path from the front of the skyscraper to the office in which I’d make the drop. Now it was a breeze.
Not that I’d taken the path they’d given me. The visual cue was used simply to carve it into my mind for flashing purposes.
The process was simple. Small distances didn’t cause much of a flash, which is why I chose to come into the building instead of flashing directly from the tunnel—less wake. And with less wake, there was less chance of the person receiving the delivery freaking out—which meant less chance of them screaming or worse—blabbing.
My mom said that once, when she was a girl, she’d flashed to an amusement park from school—right into the fun house. Her light burst forth, and its reflection bounced around the mirrors in the place until she was overcome by the power of it—and passed out cold.
The news crews called it a fluke accident.
My grandmother called it a month’s grounding.
I could imagine the things they’d ask us. How did we do it? How far could we go? Did it hurt?
Flashing didn’t hurt. It felt as if, for a fraction of a second, my entire body went concave, almost flattening into itself and then retracting, though I’d never suffered a broken bone or internal injuries. I’d love to know more about how it works, but all we knew were the histories. When I was a kid, it thrilled me. I could get my chores done like nobody’s business. I was never late for school or swim practice, but there were always consequences.
My mother was a flasher—don’t laugh—not that kind of flasher. It was a genetic gift or curse, depending on how you viewed it.
The gene was passed from mother to daughter, so she knew what once tickled me as a toddler would, with the onslaught of pubescence, become a compulsion. I flashed because I had to. I’d tried to deny myself the adrenaline rush as a teen, longing for the chance to be normal. It’s not like the other kids were normal, but I knew deep down inside that something cataclysmic separated me from them. That period of stillness nearly killed me. And then, when I could take it no more, I flashed constantly, from Italy to Greece, from Argentina to Vancouver and back. For an entire month, I whisked through time and space, getting it all out of my system.
It bordered on madness, but the cure was travel.
That’s when YouTube video number one came into being. Some renta-cop caught me on a security camera in
Santiago, Chile outside of President Franco’s office just after two in the morning and thought it would be wise to plaster it all over the internet. I had just been sightseeing, getting a better view. Get over it—effing part-time, wanna-be policia.
My mother never flashed much— not until my dad died. When they first met, the adrenaline of first love equaled the rush of flashing, so it wasn’t until after she had me, when time and age had lessened the thrill of married life that the itch of needing to travel slammed into her again. The first time I’d seen her flash, at the tender age of three, I’d mimicked her by instinct, flashing from my room to the park, and it had nearly given her a coronary trying to find me.
Most children would get into trouble. I was praised for flashing such a large distance and was kindly asked to let them know where I was going the next time.
She’d sat on my bed that night and explained it all to me. I’d loved her as a child before I knew about our gift, and after that night, I worshipped her.
That was the first time she’d taught me the meaning of relâmpago, the
lightning bolt, in Portuguese. Our people are named after the breath of electricity whose bolts brighten the sky during storms. In modern times—the younger generations—we called ourselves Lucents. But I would always remember my mother proudly telling me that my gift was born from pure light—the light of the lightning and the light of the
Almighty. We were all descended of Xoana, daughter of Ofelia, who stood in the fields of Portugal, cursing her father for not allowing her to travel to other lands because she was his only daughter and he feared for her safety. Xoana had a hunger—a desire so deep that it flooded her veins, to see the world. As she stood, surrounded by the wheat crops she loathed, and used his scythe to drive her anger into the heavens, the Almighty struck her down with a bolt of lightning, blessing and cursing her all at once.
Xoana was the first Lucent and we, her daughters, called her light to this day. Some crudely called us teleporters. I’d always despised that name. Either way, I could travel anywhere in the blink of an eye thanks to Xoana and her curses. I did all this without stepping foot on any land or oceans between myself and my destination.
And I’d perfected the art.
My father had tried to understand it, he had. Many a night he’d stayed up by the light of his lamp, sitting in his chair, studying our history. I couldn’t keep track of the many times he’d asked my mother how it felt to travel—and later he’d asked me. He would beg my mother to take him with her. “Just try it,” he’d say. But there were rumors— females of our kind who’d tried to share the experience with their husbands, friends, and lovers and lost them in the fray—never to be seen again.
He’d died of a heart attack on a jet, headed to Portugal to meet her— alone, eternally chasing his love.
I was sure there were those who
envied our gift. But what good was the ability to travel the world in seconds if you were perpetually lonely.
I was lonely without Theo, though I’d never tell him.
The bridges of Paris, packed with embracing patrons reminded me.
The scrolling, illustrious sunsets on the coast of the Sierra Leone made the fact gleam.
We couldn’t be together. It was too dangerous.
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