From Chapter 10:
Then later that week Annie and her nana went to the bank to help set up an account for Annie’s mom, plus to get money for back-to-school shopping. Since it was around 5:00 in the afternoon, the place was somewhat full. All of a sudden Annie and her grandma heard a popping sound, when a man wearing a Halloween mask came in with an automatic rifle. He ordered everyone to get down on the floor or he would start shooting people. The tellers proceeded to give this man the money he demanded. The police had been outside, but the man pointed his rifle at Annie and threatened to shoot her if they tried to come in.
“I almost peed my pants,” she explained as we both lay on our backs, watching clouds drift overhead on the trampoline in my backyard. “But I felt this man had a certain sadness about him. My nana pleaded with him to leave me alone. Then, I told him the story of ‘The Ugly Duckling.’ Can you believe it? At first, he tells me to shut up, but I kept telling him how nobody liked the Ugly Duckling and treated him terribly. I get to the end of the story, you know, the part where he’s a beautiful swan? And this man started crying under his mask. He took off his mask to wipe his eyes. And then, I tell him in a calm, gentle, pathetic voice, ‘Sounds kind of like you. Why don’t you put your gun down?’ And he did. His unshaven, scraggly face all wet with tears. Then I say, ‘Why don’t you go turn yourself in and get your life back together?’ And the guy goes out with his hands up and turns himself in! They closed the bank down, and we just went out to the parking lot. Police cars and news people were all outside and people were pointing at me. I guess I made other people cry. Over the stupid Ugly Duckling!”
“Wow. That’s incredible. Somehow you turned him into an emotional wreck.” I was struck with awe over her ability to do such a thing.
All right. It was really a semi-automatic, so a bit inaccurate weapon description. This scene was to introduce Annie's new empathic powers and to illustrate how effective it is in subduing bad guys, as opposed to the use of force.
Also from Chapter 10:
“Jimmy Miller?” Miss Clarkston asked to get my attention. “You look like you don’t quite understand. You keep looking over at Annie. You’re going to have to work on keeping your eyes on your own work. I’d like to see you work on that. Okay?”
I’d like to see you naked in the shower, Miss Clarkston. I nodded in agreement with Miss Clarkston as I thought this. One year ago I would never have thought such a thing, but ever since I snuck out of my room a few times and saw a few R-rated movies with female nudity that my dad would watch at night sometimes, something changed in me.
“Jimmy Michael Miller!” I heard Annie snap at me, suddenly standing on her feet in military-style attention. This time it was her actual voice echoing throughout the classroom. “That’s not nice to say at all!”
The class broke out in laughter at her. With great confusion, I shrugged my shoulders at her outburst because I had said nothing. What was that girl talking about? At that, Miss Clarkston replied, “Annie, maybe you should mind your own business.”
“But, I heard Jimmy say he’d like to see you naked in the shower.” Now the students were laughing nearly uncontrollably.Miss Clarkston stood speechless. I guessed this scenario probably was never covered in her teacher training. “Okay, okay. Can we just get back to our ice breaker?
When I was in fourth grade, I did not have a Miss Clarkston--that was the other fourth grade class. I remember one boy making this same naked-in-the-shower comment about that teacher, and it just always stayed in my head. Also, Annie is a bit out of character. She wouldn't ordinarily snitch on someone, but Jimmy and Annie just developed telepathy between each other.
From Chapter 12:
“What you do to my baby!?” A voice boomed at the doorway to the classroom. A six foot woman that was a larger copy of her daughter stood with steam practically coming out of her ears. She hugged Mikayla. “It’s all right, baby.” Then she positioned herself next to Annie as Mikayla did a moment ago, threatening her. “Let’s see you do something to me!”
Miss Clarkston endeavored to intervene, but Mrs. Jones towered over her. The teacher was only 5 foot 4. “Mrs. Jones. You really should let me handle it.” Mrs. Jones pushed Miss Clarkston with one hand against Joey’s desk. Luckily, she caught herself before hitting her head on the floor. Kenneth sprang into action with a comforting hug.
I expected Annie to beat this woman senseless or shower her with acid, but she did a very surprising move. “Let me tell you a story, Mrs. Jones.”
“What kind of nonsense is this?”
Undaunted, Annie continued with her story. “You see, there was this little girl named Mary and she lived with two older sisters. Her family had very little money and often had to live on just bread for dinner. Her mother and father worked hard for very little pay to send her and her sisters to a really nice school, the kind you had to wear a uniform at. At the school she and her sisters were the only black students. Every day the other students made fun of her and teased her. The teachers always told her they didn’t think she would amount to much and didn’t know why in the world her parents would send her to such a school.
“However, whenever she was home, she tried to find a parent who would help her feel better. Her mother worked the evening shift and was left at home with her father, who frequently drank.”
“Girl, you must be trippin’” Mrs. Jones said, but not as angry.
“But, Mary had a secret. A big secret. A secret she has kept for all her life. Her daddy did stuff to her. Touched her in ways she didn’t like. How dare he do that to her? He took turns with Mary and her sisters. Mary could never tell her mom because her daddy said it would break her heart and she didn’t wanna break her mother’s heart.” Mikayla’s mom started to wipe tears from her eyes. I was completely baffled by all this. “So, that is why Mary shuts out the world. Made herself strong, so no one would ever hurt her again. Made her children strong, too. But inside, Mary is a hurt little girl.”
Mikayla’s mom collapsed to her knees while deeply sobbing. “I can’t believe he did that to me! Why? Where was my mother?”
Now, Mikayla came over, embracing her mom. “What’s wrong, Mama? What did Grandpa J. do to you?”
Annie placed her hand on Mrs. Jones’ back in a very comforting way. “It’s all right to let it all out. He can’t hurt you anymore.”
“What am I gonna do!? What am I gonna do!?” Mrs. Jones wailed.
“Go home. Take Mikayla with you. Call a counselor and start taking your life back. Don’t shut the world out anymore and treat everyone like they’re all out to get you. And, maybe you should go to church or something.”
More illustration of Annie's empathic power. There are parents who do become bullies to kids in elementary schools. Grown people! Obviously, I'm implying Mrs. Jones is a survivor of child sexual abuse. Hey, it happens unfortunately, but I didn't say what her issue was outright. Although Annie had just cause to pound her into the ground, Annie instead offers a hand of compassion.
From Chapter 13:
“Jimmy! Get out here!” I rushed into the backyard past the small birch tree, hesitating while looking around for her. Mrs. Marshall had a small vegetable garden behind the detached garage, but over to the left of the tree was a large wildflower garden. I could hear a trickle of water where an electric pond invited a small amount of peacefulness here in the backyard in the middle of the garden. However, I saw no signs of Annie. “C’mon, Jimmy! Over here!” I heard her voice in the wildflower garden, so I trotted my way there until I could see the pond with a decorative water fountain with statues of Cupid standing on top of each other. Water flowed out of the arrow tip of the Cupid on top. A red brick path encircled the entire pond, cutting the garden right in the middle. A flat, almost yellow wooden bench with a black metal frame was over at the right of the pond. I found Annie on her knees, shaking her mom in order to wake her, who lay slumped on the bench. An empty bottle of some kind of alcoholic beverage rested on the grass beneath, along with several beer cans scattered about.
“What happened?” I asked.
“I don’t know, but she had been drinking. She doesn’t look hurt or anything.” A strong odor of alcohol flowed from her mom’s body, and she appeared almost lifeless.
I stood there flabbergasted, unsure of what to do about any of this. This was the first time I’ve ever seen someone passed out drunk, although an all too familiar scene for Annie, who witnessed this almost every day when she and Colin lived at that drug house. Her mom’s breathing was so shallow that her chest didn’t even rise. Terrified, I positioned myself, crouching down next to her. Her legs dangled off the bench. I placed my hand on her left knee which was stacked on the other one. Before long, I had a visual in my head of the alcohol in her bloodstream, blocking out its ability to absorb oxygen. Annie’s mom was literally suffocating from too much alcohol.
“Can you help her?” Annie asked in near desperation.
“I don’t know. I’ve never dealt with this kind of thing before. I’ve got an idea, though.” I attempted to stimulate her lungs and heart, so that she could take in more oxygen. Then I pushed the alcohol out of her red blood cells, forcing oxygen into them. With her heart beating faster this newly oxygen-enriched blood began circulating through her body. Meanwhile, the alcohol began rushing to her liver, flowing into her kidneys. Eventually, the alcohol began reaching her bladder, and since she was still very much passed out, she ended up wetting herself. However, the alcohol was out of her, finally.
Annie's mother is a recovering addict and alcoholic. She suffered a relapse after discovering Jimmy and her daughter have super powers. I wanted to highlight the struggles people face with substance abuse. When parents abuse, it affects their children. On the bright side, Annie's mom missed getting abducted by Etyouth.
From Chapter 16:
Then, I overheard Annie moaning, very weakly, “No. Stop that.” I came to a spot where the hallway made a sharp left. Three heavy concrete doors sealed by several oversized deadbolts each confronted me, light switches attached just to the right of them. Destroying the very first door, I exposed a bizarre empty room with a make-shift bed consisting of stacks of newspaper and carpet padding. A bucket that once held industrial floor cleaner sat with water in it, and above it, a toilet seat with handles, the kind sometimes used by the elderly. One darkened light fixture dangled from the ceiling like all the others back in the hallway. Not finding anyone here I crashed through a wall built with a series of cinderblocks into the middle room, knocking over bedding similarly constructed as in the first area.
This place conjured up images of dungeons in my mind. However, I pinpointed Annie to the last space adjacent to this one. Punching through the door from this compartment, passing back into the hallway, I forced my way into the third room. I finally found her. She lay on one of those beds made out of newspaper and carpet padding. On her head earphone-type pads pressed against her temples connected to a machine, which hummed for ten seconds and then stopped briefly. An average-sized man with scraggly long hair with a beard to match sat next to her on the bed with one of those suit-ripping knives. Once he took a gander at me, he reached for a long, slender weapon of some kind, but I caught his arm. I twisted it until it snapped and popped, his little-girl screams beat painfully in my head. Then, I shoved him to the floor, pinning him with my foot. Extending my fist hammer-like, I destroyed the machine hooked up to Annie with one sudden pounding.
This is the creepiest, most disturbing chapter, titled "The Underground Hotel".
More from Chapter 16:
I picked him up off the floor by his neck, squashing his head against the ceiling. He began coughing, gasping as I partially choked off his air supply. “Tell me who you are! Now!” I demanded. The guy spit in my face, refusing to answer. However, he did manage to swear at me.
Annie in turn spit on his left thumb. “Ahhh! Why’d you do that!?” He shouted a torrent of obscenities as his opposable digit liquefied into red, bubbly slime, dripping its way to the floor. It was now nothing more than a bony sliver-like protrusion.
“You want me to do the other one!” Annie threatened. “Answer him. Who are you?”
“They…(ack)…told me I could have her! She was supposed to be mine! They made a deal with me!”
“Who made a deal? Etyouth?” I demanded. “And, you still haven’t told us who you are.”
“Yes…(ack)…Etyouth. I’m the main engineer they hired to find a way to get rid of you. They said once they had you, I could have the girl. She’s mine…(gah).” He stared at her. “The minute they showed me a picture of you, I just had to have you…Ahhh!” he screamed as the disgusted Annie splattered his right thumb with a dose of her special saliva, and it too dissolved away into a gelatinous mess. More swearing burst forth from his mouth.
Continuing with my inquisition, I probed, “What’s with all these dungeons down here? Are you planning on bringing other people down here?”
“Just kids,” he blubbered as he confessed. “Mr. McDonnell said I could in lieu of a paycheck. He says he hates kids and didn’t care what I did with them as long as I found a way to stop you.” He, then, abruptly cackled in a chilling yet amusing mock-advertisement and announced, “This is my special…underground hotel! Yes, kiddies! Where the fun never ends…right until you die!” It took every ounce of my strength not to crush his trachea, killing him right then.“This is a dungeon! And you’re planning on abducting children and keeping them here!” Then I inquired, “What was that machine you had Annie hooked up to?
Our heroes use their powers to outright torture this guy. Later on, they blow him up along with the entire Etyouth complex. So...this is perhaps the most chilling scene in the story.
From Chapter 17:
“Hey! You better have a way to pay for that truck!”
Three barked savagely, ready to counter any problems from the gun-toting neighbor. Annie confronted him, “You can’t go around threatening people with a gun! You better back off! We’ll help you with your truck as soon as we can! But, you better not come closer otherwise our dog just might attack!”
Bam! Bam! He fired two shots—one hitting Three, only to bounce off. Another slammed Marcus right in the chest. Marcus instantly fell backwards on the ground. “Marcus!” I screamed. I instantly knelt down to begin healing him. He was barely alive, but luckily not dead. The impact from the shotgun tore apart his heart along with a large portion of his sternum.
Three, feeling the need to protect us, launched himself at the man, and the dog reached for his gun with his mouth, snapping it in half. With his cat-like claw, Three deeply gouged his face along the right side. Instantly, he dropped to his knees, braced his injured face with his hands, and supported them against the pavement of the driveway. Blood pooled underneath him as he pathetically whimpered over the searing pain he must have felt. I would heal him later, but Marcus being both my friend and in critical condition required my immediate attention.
As soon as I touched him, his gaping wound began to mend. An entirely new heart grew where the old one use to be along with new nerves, blood vessels and muscle tissue. It went right to work, pumping fresh blood throughout his circulatory system. I had to regrow a section of his left lung, and his breathing returned. Finally, all the bone and skin tissue fused together, leaving no evidence that he just suffered a traumatic injury. He looked like the same old Marcus. The overweight boy opened his eyes and he seemed unaware of the gunshot to his chest.
“Why am I laying on the ground?” he wondered. “It was weird. I was just talking to you guys and my chest started to hurt and the next thing, I saw this light. It came closer to me and felt like a very happy place. Then I met…you won’t believe it! I met Jesus and I saw my papa, you know my grandpa who died last year. I wanted to go along with them. But, my papa said it wasn’t my time yet, so I had to go back, but he’ll be waiting for me when it is my time. I was really sad to have to go back, but then the light went away and suddenly…I’m on the ground.”
Meanwhile, Annie attempted to calm Three, who barked a savage warning of further bodily harm; except, the wounded neighbor’s muffled pleas for mercy made us take pity on him. The bloody mess of a man probably regretted he ever attempted such violent actions—and who would ever get the notion to shoot at a bunch of kids? If not for our powers, we’d all be dead now!
“Three! Look! Marcus is okay now! Please, don’t kill that man!” Annie begged.
Marcus asked me, “What does she mean, I’m okay? What happened?”
He stood up. “Uh. Marcus, that guy shot you in the chest and I healed you. You almost died. In fact, you might have been dead for a little bit. I had to completely grow you a new heart, muscle, bone, and blood vessels.”
“Really?” His fascination for his near-death experience left me flabbergasted. With a satisfied grin on his face, he acted as if this was the coolest thing that ever happened to him. “So, maybe I did almost go to heaven. That’s pretty cool!” He examined his chest and twisted his head to see his back, which had some dried blood.
This scene used to be more graphic, but is considerably tame from what it was.
Okay, these are what I believe are the more disturbing scenes. There is another scene in Chapter 18 where one of the antagonists splits in half and leaves a bloody mess on the Washington Monument. So, once again, I caution, parental discretion is advised.
I have reviews of some recent Kindle books I've read coming up. Be good to yourselves!