Chapter 3: Pop! Did That Surprise You?

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 31

Avajay blew out the candles on his cake. It was his 15th birthday and his parents had been hyping up the gift they bought him over the past week.

"Avajay, hurry and open your present now!" Ma said, eagerly handing him his gift.

It looked like a thick piece of paper, wrapped in a thin sheet with yellow and green polka dots, sporting a purple bow tied on top.

"What's with the bow?"

He'd been gifted presents before but never tied with a bow. It was a little too girly for his tastes.

"We're not entirely sure ourselves. My great grandfather used to tell me that his grandparents taught him that a bow was proper etiquette for gift-giving back in the day." Pops said.

"That's kinda...weird."

The past greatly interested him, however, sometimes their traditions were quite odd.

" Jay, don't judge the ways of the old ones. Everything they did was for a reason." Ma chided.

Avajay was skeptical of that but said sorry nonetheless. Taking to unwrapping his present, he found a thin paper book with a drawing of a red and blue…. person? On the cover. Above it read "The Amazing Spider-Man and Mary Jane."

"Uhh, Thank you. But, um…. I don't mean to be rude, but what exactly is this?"

His pops spoke up. "It's a comic book son! Can you believe it? These were thought to have disappeared since the Upbringing!"

Now, this piqued his interest. "Really?"

Ma smiled.

"Yes, we know how much you love collecting bits and bobs from the old ones' time. So we looked all over Juvenile to find anything that might fit the bill. And believe it or not, we came across a Relicpond that just happened to be passing through town and sold it to us."

"A Relicpond!?"

Avajay heard stories of them but never believed they were real. How could they be? They traveled around the world selling items from before the New Beginnings. It was completely unheard of.

"Did they show you their flair?"

Pops laughed. "Show us? They practically flaunted it all over town."

"What! And you didn't tell me?" This upset Avajay a bit. They knew how much he’s always wanted to meet one.

"Now Jay, we would've, but we were trying to keep your present a secret." Ma said.

"But I-," ma gave him a look of remorse, "understand that you had to keep it a secret, so it's fine."

Avajay quickly perked back up.

"But can you at least tell me what their flair was?"

"It was amazing!” His pops started. “They could make miniature suns that gave off heat and light, like the real one."

Ma rolled her eyes.

"Oh! And she could change the size with a single thought. Plus she-"

"And that's enough about that, let Jay have some time to look at his gift. Then, we can explain all the wonders of her flair."

"But hon, Ava said he wanted to-"

She shot his pops a glare, making him trail off.

"Actually on second thought, I think I better go and get us some drinks instead."

Avajay was disappointed but knew better than to make ma angry. "Yea, I do want to check out my gift, so I'll pop over to my room real quick.”

"That's fine, but are you sure you wouldn’t rather walk instead?"

"Ma, I'll be fine. I've done this like fifty or twenty times already."

"Ok, just… be careful. Alright?"

"Maaaaaaaaa, don’t worry, I will."

She still looked like she still had her doubts about it but gave him a thumbs up anyway.

Closing his eyes, he pictured his bedroom. The air started to hum. Inside his body started to feel like it'd been twisted, turned inside out, and tickled with feathers. A feeling of pins prickling him started to emerge everywhere on his skin, his brain ready to explode from the overload of sensations. Then nothing, everything was gone, hearing, taste, smell, touch, and sight disappeared like they were never even there to begin with.

Without warning, a sizzling echoed, growing louder every second. Until it hurt his ears. Which confused him because he still couldn't hear anything from them. Was the sound in his head then? Avajay didn't have much time to think about it. As there was a sudden tug that yanked at his body, followed by a small pop.

He felt space distort around him, opened his eyes, and saw the poster of the World's Greatest Flair that he hung up in his room. Avajay's senses were coming back, so he slumped over the edge of his bed for the disorientation not to hit him as hard.

Gripping his hand, he felt the smooth pages of his gift had crumbled a bit. Smiling, Avajay didn’t know what exactly this comic book ma and pops gave him was, but he was excited to find out. Sitting up, Avajay bumped his head on the ceiling. Sometimes he forgot how small his room was. Causing him to bump his head or elbows against the ceiling and walls. The room was about the size of a closet. Making it give off, in Avajay's opinion, a homely feeling. Almost as if the room was an extension of himself. Getting off the bed, Avajay opened a dresser. Well, it was more of a nightstand than a dresser because of its small size. He didn't mind, however, since its small size allowed his bed to fit. Scattered inside the bottom draw, it contained bobs and trinkets of anything that might relate to the times before the Upbringing.

Before the Cracks started emerging.

Everyone in Juvenile was taught from a young age what the cracks were but never where they came from. Anytime Avajay asked older folks, he would be brushed off with the excuse. "It's not time for you to know yet." Although it was obvious that the adults he asked just didn't know.

History books nowadays weren't reliable enough to be taken seriously either. Since most of them had either been destroyed during The Beginning, forged by wannabe philosophers, or were so rare that only Relicponds would have them.

Avajay loved researching and learning about the history of his world today. Including every period in-between. The Upbringing, Beginning, Gatosphere, and Hollows. The Gatosphere is his personal favorite with the discovery of being able to evolve one's flair. Though the reasoning behind it was shrouded in mystery.

This led him to think about his own flair. It, as people called it, manifested around two weeks ago while walking back home after returning a few books he borrowed from his friend Lex. Who lived quite a ways away from his place.

Around halfway back, he stopped to rest, sitting on a nearby rock at the top of the hill. Avajay's legs were tight from overuse and fatigue. Sweat dripped from his forehead, down his brow, and sunk into the dirt path.

He was seriously regretting ever asking for those books.

It sucked Lex's parents were the only people in town that owned even remotely truthful history books. On top of that, Avajay was the one who asked if he could borrow them, so it was only fair he returned them himself. Avajay would've felt awful if he asked Lex to pick them up, subjecting his friend to this agonizing heatwave.

He groaned. "Yea, so of course, I would willingly subject myself to it. This is just fan-freaking-tastic."

Closing his eyes to block out the sun, he thought of home. His little rag-tag tin box.

From the outside, you wouldn't be able to tell it had an upstairs, and frankly, Avajay was still amazed it did. Though, the size of it wasn't anything to be shocked at, the room barely fit him. Especially with his bed and dresser squeezed in there, but despite its small size and gawkish look, he couldn't help but cherish it.

More than anything, he wanted to be there now. No dirt path, no walking, and most importantly, no more sun.

Man, how he hated the heat. The cold suited him much better.

He wished he was home already. Joking with pops, ma getting angry at something pops would let slip out by accident, Avajay just laughing at it all.

He smiled. "That'd be nice."

He stood up, ready to go.

Then immediately buckled over from a burning sensation in his gut. He screamed, and it intensified.

There seemed to be a fire wounding around his body, etching deep into his skin and organs. Avajay checked to see if anyone was around.

One to see if there was a person who could help him, and two to see if this was some sick prank caused by a flair. His vision was too blurry to see clearly and he couldn’t hear anyone, so he assumed he was alone.

Avajay mashed his face against the ground, causing dirt to enter his mouth and eyes.

He cried for help, begging for someone to put it out. "Ma! Pops!"

He couldn't think straight anymore. His mind was starting to melt.

Avajay didn't know enough about human biology to know if this would kill him or not, but he sure felt like it would. All he could hear at this point was his voice screaming in pain. His world started to become speckled in black dots.

What did he do wrong to deserve this? All he wanted was to go home.

The sudden thought to escape came to mind. To escape from everything. Thought, smell, air, water, touch, gravity.

Even from this world.

The pain was unbearable at this point. His voice became hoarse from screaming. Avajay was burning alive from the inside out.

Closing his eyes, he pictured their smiling faces.

The desire to see them overwhelming him.

Finally losing consciousness, he croaked out the words, just... stop, before blacking out.

Then..... surprising, it did.

His sensations left him.

Hearing, touch, smell, taste, and although his eyes were closed, he knew his sight.

Dead, he thought. He died right then and there. Knowing it was useless, he tried to open his eyes but quickly shut them back tighter. An instinctual force came over him to keep them shut. Like a fight or flight response.

Avajay felt afloat….wherever he was at. Limbo, he presumed.

A sound. Well, he thought it was a sound. A small sizzle that, rather than being heard from his ears, Avajay heard with his entire body. It grew louder, heavier. Causing his ears to ache. Once it grew unbearable, he felt a tug, like a rope was tied around his stomach, pulling him in.

Subsequently, it was followed by a pop. Space distorted around him. Soon after, Avajay thought it safe to open his eyes.

Hesitant, he slowly cracked one open.

Shock hit him fast.

He...was home, in his kitchen specifically.

With a very surprised ma and pops staring at him.

Avajay recounted what had happened to him. Pops looked ecstatic, rejoicing how his boy's flair finally manifested. Ma, on the other hand, spoke very little and appeared grim in comparison. Once he finished his story, ma finally spoke.

"Jay, are you sure you're okay? Yo-you said that it hurt, right? You were engulfed in flames."

He didn't want Ma to worry about him, especially not when his flair manifested.

"Ma don't worry, I'm fine. I wasn't really on fire. It just felt like I was."

Yea sure, when it was happening, Avajay was thoroughly convinced he was burning alive, but that was because the pain was too much for him to think clearly.

"Avajay" Ma spoke sternly. "How could I not worry when I hear my child felt like he was being burned alive!"

Clouds started forming in the room, and a faint smell of rain entered. Avajay fell silent out of shame. Of course, she would be worried. It was selfish of him to tell her not to be. Pops looked worried and rushed over to ma's side. Speaking in a cooing tone pops tried to calm her.

"Honey, everyone's flair manifests in different ways. Why mine felt ice-cold after I used it the first time to heal my ankle, you know that."

The clouds started to dissipate.

Remorseful, Avajay spoke. "Ma, I'm sorry. I shouldn't expect you to brush this off. It's just," he shivered, "I rather focus on the less painful parts of my flair's manifestation, please."

The room cleared.

Ma apologized for over-reacting and not not taking into confederation of how Avajay felt.

The next day they celebrated Avajay's flair manifesting. They hadn't invited anyone else to keep word of his flair from spreading around town. As people had a habit of bombarding the person in question with all sorts of things. Such as favors, when, how, where, and why it happened. Or even if they could see it being used. This treatment would usually go on for weeks, sometimes even months.

No way. You could cut Avajay out of that.

Sirens sounded, snapping Avajay back to reality, followed by a knock at the door downstairs.

"Jaaaaaaaay, come down quick."

Avajay knew what these sirens meant, and his mother calling for him downstairs didn't help his uneasiness. He stored the gift in the drawer and closed his eyes, focusing on being downstairs.

A pop went off.

He opened his eyes to his parents standing in the doorway. In front of them was a man dressed in a black suit and an orange top hat. The man's face was covered in wrinkles and gave off a rigid and stern vibe. He looked liked someone who wasn’t very friendly. At least his color sheme was vivid, Avajay thought.

The room’s mood was somber. All three of them already knew why this man was here, and what’d he’d have to say to them.

The man gave his parents and Avajay a grave look. "Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Cortez. It's just as you've heard from the sirens. A-level threats are approaching in this direction, and fast. Although it may end up being a false alarm, I advise each and every one of you to prepare for the worst."


Submitted: June 23, 2022

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