II. Geothermal Ostrich Farm
I sat on the corner of my bed with my legs parted and my elbows over my knees.
In my hands I was fiddling with a Rubik’s cube. It was one of my favorite tricks: solving it without even having my hands on it. So for now I was just messing it up, trying to mix the colors so no side had more than two of the same, even though I knew it was an impossible task since there were nine tiles to each side but only six colors to go around. The pigeonhole principle wouldn’t allow it.
When the door opened up and John came in, he stopped in the middle of the room and looked at me. “Hey, Elliot,” he said slowly, “what’s up?”
I looked at him and licked my lips, trying to meet his eyes but only staring at his forehead, his brown hair combed perfectly like a pop star’s. “We need to talk about Gus.”
John tossed his backpack on his bed, but did nothing else. “What about him?” Something was shaking. Not his hands, not his body, but his eyes. “You know where he is?”
I sighed. “You two dating?”
“No, man,” John said and kicked at the floor as he turned away, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “You know I’m not gay, bro, you know that.”
“I’ve got other gay friends,” I said, thinking of a super I knew named Whirligig. “I just need you to be honest with me on this one. I need to know what’s up.”
“What’s going on, Elliot?” John said, turning on me. He looked frantic. “Why are you asking me all this?”
I stood up and held out the Rubik’s cube.
“What’s that for?”
“Take it,” I said, “and just hold it on your palm, okay?”
John eyed the cube and then eyed me and then finally took it. He held it in his hand like I’d told him and I took a step back, raising my hands like I still held it. I focused on the cube and then turned my hands–one column on the cube rotated and John jumped, but kept the cube in his hand as he looked back and forth between the toy and me. I kept moving my hands, the Rubik’s cube jumping on his palm until it was solved: when all the colors lined up he dropped it and fell back on his bed, sitting yet somehow slouched forward like he was crouching, a hand on his temples, staring up at me.
“You’re super, too, aren’t you?”
I nodded and sat back down. “How–how did you know it’s called super?”
“Gus told me,” he said, staring down at the cube now. “He could start fires. And you can solve Rubik’s cubes.”
“I move things with my mind,” I said.
John shook his head. “What does any of this have to do with Gus?”
“Were you two dating?” I asked again.
“Wait, were?” John started breathing heavier. “What do you mean, were we dating?”
“Were you?” I crossed my arms.
“Yeah, maybe, we had a few dates–why do you care?” Now John was trembling all over. I didn’t now how to say what I had to say, that I had seen his boyfriend killed.
“John,” I said softly, “there’s a lot of supers, and not all of ’em are nice like me and Gus. Last night, I–I saw a super attack him, and I don’t think he made it.”
“You mean–” John shook his head. “You mean he’d dead?”
“I don’t know,” I said and I sat down next to him, “but it kinda looked like it to me.”
John just sat there a moment, not really moving, not really doing anything. Finally he looked at me, shook his head, and got up. He made it as far as the door before he turned around and looked straight at me.
“If you saw him attacked, Elliot, why didn’t you do anything to stop it?”
NEXT PART: Stratocumulus