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Month: January 2017

Chapter 15 – Definitely Not Unbreakable

Eleven Months Before Impact Day

Half an hour later, we were crouched down behind some bushes off the side of the road, and I wasn’t any closer to knowing what she had planned. I didn’t even know where we were.

“Okay, where is this?” I asked.

“Well, I was thinking about your whole night-time vigilante thing, and I know that you can’t die or anything, but you’re not exactly Wolverine, right?”

“No, definitely not,” I said. “I heal way slower, and my bones are definitely not unbreakable.”

“Right. So I thought you probably need a few tools to make life a little easier for you.”

Well, that was unexpected. So tonight was about helping me with that? That was… surprisingly sweet of her.

“Like what?”

“Well for starters, a bulletproof vest,” she said, and I winced. I had definitely not enjoyed being shot. “Also some crowd control gear, since I know you don’t want to kill anyone you don’t have to.”

It felt weird, having someone be supportive of what I realised was a fairly ridiculous idea. It was a good kind of weird though, kind of like… the antithesis of loneliness?

“And we’re gonna get that here?” I asked, still not entirely sure where here was.

“Well, not here here. It’s actually across the road.”

I turned slightly, looking over my shoulder at the large, well-lit building across the road. It was a storage facility, where people rented lockable spaces to keep their junk in.

“So what are we doing here?” I asked. “Also, um, how are we going to get any of the stuff that’s in there?”

I also wanted to ask why she thought we’d find what we were looking for in a storage facility, but I assumed she had a reason for it. She was too practical to just hope for a random chance.

“We’re… kind of going to steal it,” she said quietly.

“I don’t know how I feel about it,” I told her. Stealing wasn’t exactly the shining start I wanted for my anti-crime career.

“Hear me out,” she pleaded. “Across the road, in that storage facility, a dirty cop has been stockpiling his own little collection, probably to sell it illegally later.”

“How on earth did you find that out?”

“Because the guy was one of my mum’s boyfriends for a while, and I always do a little digging on the ones that stick around more than a week.”

Boy, that was a sobering reminder of just how unstable her life was. Even still, all she was thinking about was how to help me. I felt incredibly lucky, and just a little mad.

“Damn,” I said, not entirely sure what else I could have added.

“Hey, it came in handy this time,” she said brightly. “So, guilt-free, right? This stuff’s better in your hands than not being used.”

She did have a point. She also knew exactly what to say to reassure me, and I wasn’t yet sure if that was something to be happy about, or worried.

“I don’t suppose your plan extends to us actually getting our hands on this stuff, does it?” I asked, looking over at the building again. “These places aren’t exactly light on security.”

“I have a few ideas,” she said, undeterred.

“Oh dear…”

“So, the real problem we have,” she said, excited, “is the security cameras. Believe it or not, they’re all being watched by one guy. Or girl, I guess. There are a few guards on patrol, but they’re easy to avoid. The only problem is if the camera guy sees something, and calls them over.”

“How do you know all this?” I asked, feeling a little like I’d just stumbled into a heist movie. Which probably wouldn’t have been so bad, except that I’d never stolen anything in my life.

“I cased the joint,” she said proudly.

“You think you’re so cool right now, don’t you?”

“How long did you say you can hold your breath for?” she asked, ignoring my teasing.

“What? I don’t know, like twenty minutes? I get a little dizzy, but-“

“Twenty minutes is more than enough,” she said, grinning. Then her expression grew serious. “Now, this part is a little dicey, but bear with me, okay?”

She looked genuinely concerned, but whether she was worried I would judge her, or tell her I hated her idea, I wasn’t sure. It made me dread asking what the next part of her plan was.


“Have you ever heard of a drug called Fentanyl?” she asked, her voice hushed.


“Figures. It’s mostly used as a painkiller, sometimes an anaesthetic, but in 2002, a weaponised version of it was used to knock out a bunch of terrorists in a hostage situation.”

She said it so casually, like that was a completely normal thing to know. I had no idea how to respond.

“And that helps us because…?”

“Well, Fentanyl isn’t actually that hard to get, and I’m more clever than I look,” she said. I had to think about that for a few seconds. Was she actually suggesting…

“How did you get your hands on medical anaesthetic?”

“Best not to ask,” she said quickly. “I spent a lot of time on the library computers at school. Used someone else’s login. And now, I have this.”

She pulled out of her bag a small, black object, and handed it to me. It was a phone, fairly old, and powered off.

“A crappy phone?”

She’d never owned a phone, since she didn’t have any money, and her mum wouldn’t ever get her one. It didn’t seem like she was announcing her sudden acquisition of one to me.

“Just the case,” she said, a little too satisfied with herself for me to not be suspicious. “Inside it is a dispersion mechanism for a modified Fentanyl gas.”

If it had been anyone else, I wouldn’t have believed them. I was still having a hard time believing she’d been able to manage something like that, but the earnest look on her face was very convincing, and there was really no reason for her to lie about it.

“And it won’t hurt or kill anyone?” I asked, giving her the same courtesy of belief she’d always given me.

“There’s like, a fifteen percent change it could be fatal,” she said, looking away.


“Chances go down if we call an ambulance, just to make sure. And tell them to have naloxone handy.”

“Where did you learn all this stuff?” I wasn’t sure whether to be worried or impressed. Either way, I was glad she was working with me, and not against me.

“Nowhere as fancy as you’d imagine,” she said, shrugging. “Anyway, all you need to do is go up to the security room, get him to let you in, then release the gas and hold your breath.”

“Seems like there’d be easier ways…”

“I’m sorry, do you have a better plan?”

“Fine, fine. How am I going to manage getting into the security booth? I can’t imagine they just let anyone in.”

She wouldn’t look me in the eye, biting her lip the same way she always did when being forced to do something she didn’t want to do.


“Well, he’d have to be a real monster to turn away a teenage girl with a stab wound, right?”

I almost laughed, but caught myself just in time. I was seeing a side of her I’d never seen before, clever and calculating, and every surprise made me feel a little closer to her, no matter what it was.

“When did you turn into a supervillain?” I asked, genuinely impressed with her. “I never would have thought of that, but it’s brilliant!”

“What makes you think I haven’t always been like this?” she asked, finally meeting my eye, a little of her confidence returning.

“Well, this is gonna be one Hell of a date, if nothing else,” I said, stretching out. “I’m assuming you brought the knife?”

I could see now why she’d given me a change of clothes.

“I try to be memorable, if nothing else,” she said, digging around in her backpack again. She actually did pull out a kitchen knife, and I felt a slight discomfort in my stomach. She looked concerned again. “You sure about this?”

“I’ve lived through worse,” I said, trying to sound casual about it. Truth be told, I knew it was going to hurt, a lot, but I was willing to suffer it, and I didn’t want to say a bad word about her plan.

“Once the guy is unconscious, get right out of there, and meet me at unit E17. We’ll bust open the door, grab as much as we can carry, and book it.”

“Don’t the cameras record?”

“Not tonight,” she said. “While you’re knocking out the guard, I’ll be introducing the server to an electromagnet. I’ve already fucked with their external connection, so none of the data will be copied off-site.”

“You really do think of everything, don’t you?”

“I have my moments.”

She smiled at me, and I felt my heart flutter. That could have easily been because of the knife she was holding, though.

“Alright, let’s do this,” I said, gritting my teeth and pulling the hoodie over my head. “Right in the gut, hard as you can.”

“You know, if Sadie saw this…”

“Just stab me, you wimp.”

“You’re a true romantic, you know that?” she muttered.

She pulled the knife back, grabbed my shoulder, and drove the blade into me, just as hard as she could.


Next: If It Takes A Thousand Lifetimes

Chapter 14 – That Would Be Normal

Eleven Months Before Impact Day

“Finally!” Sadie said as I was crawling back in through the window. She was unexpectedly enthusiastic, and I wasn’t quite sure how to take it.

“Were you waiting for me?” I asked, surprised.

“Yes! Every time you leave, it is so boring,” she complained.

That was fair. When left to her own devices, there wasn’t really a lot she could do. She couldn’t pick up a book or turn on the TV or use the computer. She couldn’t talk to anyone, or do anything productive with her time. I definitely felt bad for her, but there also wasn’t a lot I could do about it. I used to just leave the TV on for her, but then Mark started coming in and turning it off anyway.

“Does that mean you’re talking to me again?” I asked.

“Well, I don’t exactly have anyone else to talk to,” she grumbled.

“Nice,” I said dryly. “I can feel the love.”

“So where have you been?” she asked, ignoring me. I wasn’t entirely sure I felt like answering her question.

“Oh, you now. Out and about.”

“Well, you don’t look like you’ve been in a fight, so I’m going to assume you went to see Rachel again.”

The way she said it, it felt like an accusation. That annoyed me. What right did she have to judge me?

“Why don’t you like her?” I asked, my tone making it clear she had better think hard about her answer.

“I never said I don’t like her.”

“You made it pretty obvious.”

“I just don’t think she’s being honest with you,” Sadie said reluctantly. I tried not to laugh. Boy was she in for a surprise.

“About what?” I demanded, pushing her.

“Do you really not notice it?” she asked, backing away a little. “The way she looks at you? All your secret late night meetings…”

Oh,” I said, my voice dripping with sarcasm. “That.

“So you do see it.”

“I was a little oblivious, I guess,” I conceded. Until Sadie had brought it up, I hadn’t actually noticed, but I didn’t really feel like that was deception on Rachel’s part. I doubted either Rachel or I had any idea what we were feeling until we were forced to think about it. “I don’t really think about that sort of stuff, you know?”

“Well, she obviously does,” Sadie said petulantly.

“I know. She told me.”

Sadie did that surprised cartoonish thing where she blinked a lot, as if somehow that would make it easier to comprehend what I’d said. Or maybe she was expecting to realise she’d heard something else?

“What? When?”

“I dunno. A week ago, maybe?” I said, trying to sound casual about it.

“Wow. Okay.”

Evidently, I wasn’t able to lie to Sadie. Even if I did, she’d figure it out eventually. Better to have the conversation on my terms.

“Sadie, I… I think I feel the same about her.”

“You think?

“Well, I haven’t exactly done this before,” I said, annoyed.

“Do you even know if you’re gay?” she asked.

What the Hell kind of question was that? Did she not believe me? Did she not want to believe me? Why should I have to prove anything to her?

“No, I don’t,” I said coldly. “But I know that I like Rachel.”

“But you’ve never even thought about it before,” she protested. “What if she just, like, talked you into it?”

“Talked me into it?” I repeated, incredulous. This was my sister talking?


“Sadie, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, okay? I know what I’m doing.”

Well, okay, that last part was a lie, but the sentiment was true. I wasn’t going to let Sadie make me start doubting myself, not now.

“So are you going to have sex with her?” she asked.

“What? That’s…”

My first reaction was to say, that has nothing to do with it. I stopped myself, though. What if it did? What if Rachel wanted that? Would I be okay with it? Would I want it too? Why didn’t I think of this before?

“Would you even kiss her?” Sadie demanded, still pushing.

“What the Hell?”

“Well, if you think you can date another girl, surely stuff like that should be no problem, right?” she asked, in a strange combination of smugness and defensiveness.

“You know, sometimes I forget you’re only fifteen,” I said, sounding as disappointed as I felt.

“You can’t play the age card on me, Charlie,” she snapped. “I’m dead, not a kid.”

To be fair, she’d never really acted her age, not since she died. It was difficult to say exactly how it all affected her. Being dead, she didn’t exactly have hormones or standard brain development, but at the same time, she was definitely growing, and maturing at what felt like a pretty normal rate. At least, she’d always seemed like the same distance from me, age-wise.

“Well, you’re sure not acting like an adult right now,” I said.

“You’re the one acting like a kid,” she retorted. “I’m just worried you haven’t thought this through.

With that, she finally hit my breaking point. There was no way I was going to take that from her.

“Okay, first of all, if I was dating a guy, you wouldn’t be saying any of this,” I snapped.

“No, because that would be normal,” she said. I was starting to see red.

“Right, because everything in my life is so normal. Fuck, Sadie.”

“I didn’t mean it like that,” she muttered.

“I don’t care how you meant it, to be honest. And anyway, I don’t need to have thought it out. I like her, and this is what I want. End of story.

“No, that’s not the end of the story!” she cried. “You can’t just date a girl and expect everything to work out? That’s not how the world works!”

“I’m not going to give up on a relationship just because there are no guarantees it will work out!” I yelled, then immediately cringed and covered my mouth, as if that would muffle the words already spoken.

“You’re shouting, Charlie.”

“Whatever,” I muttered. “This conversation is over. Thanks so much for the support, sis.”

“I’m just trying to look out for you,” she said.

“Well, don’t.”


* * *
Sadie and I didn’t talk for a few days after that. For the most part, she sat in the corner and sulked. I didn’t care. She deserved to stew a little, as far as I was concerned.

When I finally had another chance to sneak over to Rachel’s place again, I was over the moon. I wasn’t planning on telling her about Sadie’s reaction, but I thought that just being around her would make me feel better.

Just like always, I climbed over the fence, snuck around through the back door, and slipped into Rachel’s room as quietly as I could. With the amount of times that I’d done it, I knew how to be pretty damn quiet.

“Hey there,” I said, closing the door behind me.

“Hey!” she said. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

I cringed involuntarily. She wasn’t lowering her voice like we normally had to. Was her mum not home? Or had she just suddenly become reckless?

“Dude, too loud!”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” she said.

“Why not?”

“I… maybe slipped a sleeping tablet into her drink,” she said sheepishly.

“You did what?”

“She takes them sometimes anyway,” Rachel said defensively. “And I needed to be able to go out without worrying tonight. She’ll be fine.”

I sighed. “Yeah, I guess.” I didn’t feel good about it. Though, if anyone deserved it, it was Rachel’s mother. Not that anybody deserved to be drugged. Ever.

“I know, it’s kind of messed up. But it was important.”

“So, we’re going out?” I asked, changing the subject. I just needed to not think about it too much.

“I told you, I have a surprise for you,” she said, brightening up. “Here, wear this.”

She handed me a low-cut top and a hoodie. Confused, I looked at them for a few seconds, then back at her. She just smiled, and disappeared out of the room. Not really having much reason to object, I quickly changed, then followed her outside.


Next Week: Definitely Not Unbreakable

Chapter 13 – What If I’m Bad At It?

Eleven Months Before Impact Day

“It feels weird being out this late,” Rachel said, in between mouthfuls of burger. The way she tore into it, it made me worry she hadn’t eaten properly in days.

We were sitting on the top level of an empty car park, legs dangling over the edge, completely alone. Our perch protected us from the wind, so it was eerily calm and quiet. Above us, there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. Just stars, gently twinkling.

“You worried?”

“A little, but I’m still glad I’m here,” she said. “Thanks for the food.”

I was so glad I could trust her, in that moment. I needed to be able to believe her when she said things were okay.

“Oh, it’s not a gift,” I said, a little less nonchalantly than I’d hoped. “It’s a bribe.”

“Well, it’s working. What is it you want?”

God, that smile. It was like staring into the face of the world’s cutest kitten, only intensified tenfold.

“Oh, you know. Everything,” I said, leaning back on my hands and staring up at the sky.

“Don’t hold your breath,” she said, laughing.

“I can hold my breath for a pretty long time, you know.”

“Well, you’re welcome to try, but I’ve never known you to be all that patient,” she said.

“Yeah, I’m really not.”


We sat in silence for a few minutes, just watching the stars and enjoying the peacefulness. That said, I doubted either of us actually felt all that peaceful. I certainly didn’t. One look at her and I knew she felt the same.

“So,” I said, barely able to get my mouth to work.


“We should talk,” I managed to say, letting all of the air in my lungs out in the process.

“Yeah,” she said, staring down at her lap. “I’ve been thinking the same.”

My heart was pounding against the insides of my chest, and I was breathing in quick, short bursts. The next part was crucial, because neither of us knew what the other wanted to say. All we knew was that if we wanted different things, there wasn’t an easy way to reconcile that.

“Anything you want to start with?” I asked hopefully.

“God, no,” she said, obviously as nervous as I was. I didn’t know if that was a good sign or a bad one.


“Sorry,” she said, sounding a little more sincere than I would have liked.

“It’s okay. I’m just worried I’m gonna make a fool of myself,” I said.

“More than usual, you mean?” she teased.  That was good. It felt normal. Natural.

“That is just patently untrue,” I said indignantly. “Slanderous, even.”

“Sure, sure. You’re a paragon of grace and elegance.”

She laughed, and it instantly relaxed me. Being around her, it was an incredible mix of exciting and soothing.

“You know, I think I’m starting to have a change of heart,” I said threateningly, but hopefully not too threateningly. It was only meant to be playful.

“Alright, alright,” she said, resting her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands. “I’m sorry. I’m just nervous.”

You’re nervous?”


I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself. The fresh air was soothing, and it eased my frayed nerves a little.

“Do you feel any differently to, you know, the last time we talked?” I asked. It felt like my heart stopped beating until she answered.

“What? No, of course not!” she said, looking alarmed. “Do… do you?”

So her feelings hadn’t changed. No second thoughts, no regrets. She’d have some something if she wasn’t certain. That knowledge had an immediate calming effect. I realised that the uncertainty was the part that had been the hardest to deal with. With that out of the way, I was ready to keep going.

Don’t screw this up, Charlie.

“Well, I’ve been thinking about it a lot,” I said, slowly, carefully. “Like, pretty much constantly. And I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve been really confused.”

Her expression turned serious. “Look, Charlie, if you don’t want to, you know… It’s okay,” she said, her voice breaking a little.

“I… I think I do want to, though,” I said, feeling my face burning. I couldn’t look at her.

“You do?” she asked, sounding genuinely surprised. Then, “Wait, what exactly is it that you want?”

That was the question I’d been dreading, because I honestly didn’t know how to answer it. I wanted to do what she wanted to do, but I couldn’t exactly say it like that, could I?

“I’m a little hazy on the details,” I said, feeling kind of pathetic. “But I really like you, and I want to, um, you know…”

Make you happy. I actually couldn’t even finish the sentence. It wasn’t awkwardness that I felt so much as vulnerability, which was a feeling I didn’t have a lot of experience with. No, scratch that. It was a feeling I’d spent most of my life actively trying to avoid.

“Are you asking me out?” she asked, her tone regaining just a little of her usual confidence, and even a hint of sly teasing.



“Shut up, I’ve never done this before,” I grumbled.

“Charlie, of course I want to go out with you,” she said, her hand resting on mine. If possible it felt like my face somehow got even hotter.

“That almost sounds like there’s a ‘but’ coming…”

“Well, I mean, we probably need to talk about a few things,” she said, her practical side starting to take back over again. That was a relief to me, because her practical side was a lot easier to deal with, or at least easier to understand.

“Yeah, that’s putting it mildly,” I conceded.

“Should we tell anyone?” she asked, and I could already see the beginning of her mental checklist. That was good. Structure was good.

“Do you want to tell anyone?” I asked, not quite knowing the answer to that myself.

“Well, I don’t want to keep it a secret,” she said, squeezing my hand. “But at the same time…”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. Maybe we should just keep it to ourselves for now.”

Something about that felt profoundly disappointing, like we’d already lost a battle we didn’t want to fight in the first place. Still, we both had enough to deal with without adding other people’s politics into the mix.

“We still can’t see each other very much,” she pointed out, her voice heavy.

“We’ll just have to make the most of the time we do have,” I said, though I hadn’t actually seriously considered that point before. “Or figure out a way to manage more.”

“As long as you’re okay with that,” she said.

Okay, that was as close to a perfect time to ask as I was ever going to get. I had to say it. Even if I wasn’t sure I wanted the answer.

“Are you okay with me being, y’know, me?” I asked, and I know she could feel my hand trembling. She squeezed it again, and slid a little closer to me.

“Come one, who wouldn’t want their girlfriend to be an immortal ghost whisperer?”

I almost didn’t hear her oddly touching description of me, because my brain hitched on the world ‘girlfriend’. It surprised me to hear it. It surprised me even more to realise that just one word could hold that much power.


“That… just kind of slipped out,” she said, embarrassed.

“I like it,” I said, just as embarrassed.

“You do?”

“Shut up.”

We were close enough that our shoulders were touching. Even though we’d sat that close dozens of times before, it felt like the most intimate moment we’d ever shared.

“That’s not what I meant, though,” I said, wishing I wouldn’t.

“What do you mean, then?”

“I’m not, you know. Romantic. Or whatever. I dunno how. I might never be like that,” I said, surprised at how much the admission frightened me.

“Oh,” she said. “I don’t think I really want that, though?”

“You don’t?”

“I think I just want to be honest. If we can keep being honest, I think things will be okay, you know?”

“I hope so,” I said, squeezing her hand.

“What about Sadie?” she asked, changing the subject.

“I hadn’t even thought about that,” I lied. I’d been going over what I was going to say to Sadie in my head for days, but I hadn’t been able to come up with anything, not without talking to Rachel first.

“Do you think she’ll figure it out on her own?”

“Probably,” I said. Sadie wasn’t exactly oblivious, and she’d already told me she was suspicious about our relationship. Hell, it was almost like she knew before I did.

“Does she still not like me?” Rachel asked, and I winced. I found myself wishing I hadn’t shared that with her.

“She’s going to have to deal with it.”

“I wish I could talk to her,” she said wistfully.

“I mean, I could act as a medium, but…”

“It’s not the same,” she said, and I agreed with her. It would have felt entirely too weird.

From the very first time I’d told her about Sadie, she’d never once asked me to prove it. She’d never tried to force an interaction with Sadie in any way, even when I’d told her Sadie was present. Trying to get the two of them to talk now, it would have just felt weird.

“I guess not.”

“There was one other thing,” she said, so quietly I almost didn’t hear her.


“Would it… Would it be okay if I… Um…”

She trailed off. When I glanced over at her, I could see that she was blushing even harder than I was. Her gaze was fixed intently in the other direction, and I could feel her hand shaking a little.


“I kind of want to kiss you,” she mumbled.

“Oh,” I said, without thinking. I was surprised and probably the most nervous I’d been all night. It took me a second to realise that reaction probably wasn’t the one she was looking for, and I felt like I’d just messed everything up.


Oh god, I couldn’t say anything else. I needed time to think, but she was waiting for me to say something, instead of just staring at her like an idiot.

“What if I’m bad at it?” I asked, feeling like it was the most serious issue I’d ever been faced with in my life.


“What if I’m a bad kisser?” I asked again, like the biggest dork in the universe.

“Are you being serious right now?”

“Am I not allowed to be worried about that?”

“Well, what if I’m a bad kisser?” she asked, frowning at me.

“I won’t even know if you’re a bad kisser, I’m gonna be too busy focussing on whether I’m bad or not,” I told her.



“You are so cute,” she said, reigniting my cheeks with a ferocious new wave of blushing.

“Shut up.”

Without me realising entirely how it happened, our faces were very close together, our foreheads just lightly resting against one another. Her fingers wrapped around mine, and for a few agonisingly intense seconds, we held that position, staring into each other’s eyes.

I don’t know which of us closed the distance, but the moment her lips touched mine, it didn’t matter. Physically, the sensation was nothing special; a little wet, a little warm, a little soft. It didn’t feel like a physical act, though. It felt like a whole new kind of connection, one that made every nerve in my body tingle.

My hand grabbed the front of her coat, holding her close to me, the action almost subconscious. All I wanted was to just melt into her, to press myself against her, to never let her go. If I’d had any doubts before that moment, they were all gone after, at least momentarily. All I could think about was how unbelievably perfect that moment was, and how I never wanted it to end.

When we pulled away, we both smiled shyly at each her, her biting her lip cutely. We stayed that way for a little longer, just enjoying the closeness.

“So…?” I said, when the silence became too much to bear.

“Too early to say,” she said solemnly.


“I’m going to need to run a few more tests,” she said smugly. “For science, you understand.”

I shoved her playfully. “Idiot.”

“Did you not like it?” she asked, giving me her puppy dog eyes again.

“I didn’t say that.”


“I am not going to say it,” I insisted.

“You either have to say it, or do it again,” she said authoritatively.

“I’m not falling for that,” I told her.

“You totally are, though,” she retorted, and damn her, she was right.

“Are you going to be like this all the time now?” I asked. She frowned, and pulled away.

“Sorry, I didn’t meant o be annoying…”

“No, I actually kind of like it,” I said, worried I’d already managed to upset her. That had to be some kind of record, right?

“You don’t have to say that just to make me feel better,” she replied sullenly.

“I really am happy,” I told her, squeezing her hand.


“I promise,” I said, and as soon as I did, her face cracked into the most adorably, infuriatingly smug smile I’d ever seen.

“Wow, that was easier than I expected.”

“You suck,” I said. “I take it back.”

“Too late, I already heard it,” she said cheerfully.

“Well I hope it was worth it, because it’s the last nice thing I’m gonna say for a while,” I told her petulantly.

“It was totally worth it. Also, I probably need to get home soon.”

Until she said that, I’d completely forgotten that the only reason she could even be out of the house was because her mum was out, and we had no idea when she’d be back again. We absolutely needed to get Rachel back home again.

“Oh shit, what time is it?” I asked, scrambling to pull my phone out of my pocket to check.

“I really don’t want to know.”

“I don’t want to get you in trouble,” I said, frowning a little.

“Me either, but I don’t want to have to leave you, either,” she said, wrapping her arm around mine affectionately.

“I’ll come by again in a couple of nights, okay?”

“Oh yeah!” she said, her eyes lighting up. “Actually, I had something I wanted to do with you.”

“You did?”

“Well, it might seem a bit boring after tonight, but…”

“I’ll let you surprise me, then,” I said, wondering what she could possibly be planning. Whatever it was, I was just glad to be able to spend more time with her.

“So trusting all of a sudden.”

“Hey, I always trust you,” I said defensively.

“And so you should.”

“Alright, get out of here,” I said, giving her a friendly shove.

“One more time before I go?” she asked, tugging on my arm.

“…Okay,” I said, wondering if I would ever stop blushing.


Next Week: That Would Be Normal

Chapter 12 – You Know Me So Well

Eleven Months Before Impact Day

However good I’d felt the night before, it clearly didn’t last through to the next day. I spent pretty much the entire day staring out the window, lost in thought. That probably wouldn’t have been a problem on a weekend, but it was a school day, and I found myself being scolded more than once for not paying attention. Liz and Aidan kept throwing me concerned looks, and I knew there was a lecture coming later.

Thankfully, they didn’t mention it until after school, when we were all back home and hanging out in Aidan’s room. His room was smaller than mine, but a whole lot neater. I was staring absently at the wall when he prodded me.

“Hey, you okay there?

“Huh?” I asked, snapping out of it. “Fine. Why?”

“You’ve been distant all day,” Liz said. “Seems like something might be bothering you.”

“Oh. No, I’m fine. Just thinking about stuff,” I told them, which was technically true.

“What kind of stuff?” Aidan prompted.

“Stuff like you being nosy,” I said, a little more sharply than I’d intended.

“That was a bit rude,” Liz chided.


“Are you sure you’re okay?” Aidan asked, sounding more concerned than annoyed. Was I really being that obvious?

“Just confused, I guess,” I blurted out, then immediately felt my face turn red. I hadn’t meant to say anything at all.

Liz and Aidan exchanged glances, then looked back at me, surprised. Clearly they weren’t expecting me to open up about it either.

“That’s not like you,” Liz said. “What’s up?”

Don’t say anything, don’t say anything, don’t say anything.

“Just… relationship stuff,” I said. Idiot. I still wasn’t going to give them any details, but maybe I could vent some of what I was feeling. It wasn’t like they’d let me back out of the conversation anyway, so I figured I should at least try and get something out of it.

“Well, that’s unexpected,” Aidan said, suddenly looking a little uncomfortable.

“Something you want to tell us about?” Liz asked, also looking a little less than happy. What was their deal?

“No, it’s not like that,” I lied. It bothered me that they both seemed to relax at that “I’ve just… I’ve never really thought of myself as a relationship-y sort of person, you know?”

“You do sort of give off that vibe,” Aidan said.

“I guess I’m just wondering about that, lately.”

“Well, there’s nothing wrong with that,” Liz said encouragingly.

“I feel like there is. I would be rubbish in a relationship,” I said, a little bitterly.

“What makes you say that?” Aidan asked.

“Well, you know what I’m like,” I said. “I’m sarcastic and kind of weird. And not exactly good at relationship-type things.”

“Charlie, what do you think relationships are about?” Liz asked, raising an eyebrow in surprise.

“You know, being nice, talking about feelings, making the other person happy, supporting them when they’re down, that sort of thing. All the things I suck at.”

Pity party, table for one.

“You don’t suck at those things,” Aidan said, “you’re just not used to them. You just need to date someone who knows what you’re like, and who’ll be patient as you figure that stuff out.”

Would Rachel be patient?

“And what if I never figure that stuff out?” I demanded. None of that stuff came naturally to me, and it didn’t seem like stuff you could just learn. What if I just wasn’t cut out for relationships?

“There are people who will love you regardless,” Liz said, and Aidan nodded in agreement.

“I doubt that,” I muttered. What if I can’t be what Rachel wants, and she leaves me?

“Hey, you’re a pain in the arse, and I still love you,” Aidan said.

“I do too,” Liz added. “Just the way you are.”

Somehow, that didn’t actually make me feel that much better. Just because they loved me as a friend didn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. They didn’t depend on me the way a partner would, so I’d never had the chance to let them down. If I had, they’d probably feel very differently.

“Hmph,” I grunted.

“No, seriously,” Aidan said. “You’re a wonderful person, and anyone who can’t see that isn’t worth your time.”

I had no idea how to respond to that. My brain felt a little like it was short-circuiting.

“Alright, alright, don’t do that,” I said, shaking my head emphatically.

“What, are we embarrassing you?” Liz teased.

“You’re damn right you are,” I told her. “Saps.”

“Well, we’re saps who love you,” Aidan said. “So deal with it.”

I threw a pillow at him, aware I was demonstrating the emotional maturity of a five-year-old. I did feel a little better, though. It was nice to be reassured I wasn’t a complete failure of a person. At least they would never leave me.

We spent the rest of the afternoon playing video games and generally enjoying ourselves. Liz stayed for dinner, then went home. Aidan and I spent a couple of hours doing our homework together. After he went to bed, I snuck out again.

I needed to talk to Rachel. All of this shit that was going through my mind, it only had one logical conclusion. Rachel was too important to me to lose. I couldn’t lie to her, or pretend to be someone or something I’m not, but if there was anyone I could be honest with, it was her.

There was nobody I trusted more than her. Not Sadie, not Aidan or Liz. I loved them all dearly, but Rachel, she was my…

Well, I didn’t have a word for what she was. That was why I needed to talk to her. Alone.

Half an hour later, I was creeping in Rachel’s back door, praying her mum wouldn’t see me. To my surprise, it didn’t even seem like she was home. I pushed open Rachel’s door and went inside.

“Hey,” I said, surprising her. She looked up from the book she was reading, and smiled nervously.

“Uh, hey. Mum didn’t see you, did she?”

“Nope,” I said confidently.

“You’re sure?” she asked, dubious.

“Dude, she isn’t even here.”


“Well, I didn’t see her,” I clarified.

“She must have a date,” Rachel said. “She never mentions them to me. I think she’s worried I’ll invite friends over if I know she won’t be home.”

“You have friends?” I teased.

“Shut up.”

I crept up closer to her, trying to get a look at the book she was reading. She hastily slammed it shut and threw it in a drawer, glaring at me. I smirked back at her.

“So, are you busy?”

“That depends,” she said cautiously.


“How nicely you ask.” She smiled devilishly at me, freeing her hair from the hair tie she’d pulled it back with, and letting it fall around her face. Somehow, she actually managed to make it look elegant, the way it does in movies.

“I’ll just be going, then,” I bluffed. I had to admit, it was a little difficult to do when she looked at me like that. It was getting harder and harder not to admit how I felt about her.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” she said.

I stuck my tongue out at her, which made her giggle. Then we just kind of looked at each other awkwardly. After a few seconds of that, I remembered what I’d come to say.

“Are you hungry?”

She frowned. I knew food was a sort point for her, but I really just wanted an excuse to get her out of the house. With her mum gone, there was no better night for it.


“C’mon, let me buy you a burger,” I pressed, trying not to sound too insensitive.

“How do you even have money?” she asked, which I had to admit was a valid question. I didn’t exactly have a job. Or an allowance.

“I have my ways,” I said mysteriously.

“You took it from Mark, didn’t you?”

“You know me so well,” I said, sighing.

“Alright, but just this once,” she said, grabbing an old coat from the floor. My heart was pounding in my chest.

Please god let nothing go wrong.


Next Week: What If I’m Bad At It?

Chapter 11 – Maybe Punching Someone Would Help

Part 2 – Vigilante

Eleven Months Before Impact Day

On my next night out ‘on patrol’, as I liked to think of it, I was a little better prepared. I’d strapped my old karate padding on underneath my clothes, and left Sadie at home. I hadn’t figured out a way to improve my visibility without revealing my face, so I still had the ski mask, but I had brought along some rope. All I needed to do was figure out how to tie a person up without first breaking any of their limbs.

Alright, so it wasn’t exactly a drastic improvement, but I didn’t really have a lot of resources at my disposal. Oh, to be a billionaire playboy, or whatever the feminine equivalent of that was. A slutty heiress? Yay for gender equality. Feminism truly is over.

I decided to go in a different direction to the previous night, mostly because I felt like a change of scenery. I told myself it was also to avoid becoming predictable, but I hadn’t been out enough for it to make a difference. Nobody was paying any attention to what I did. Yet.

It was nice just being out in the fresh air, alone and free to think in relative peace. It was a lot harder to be introspective around other people, especially when you didn’t want them to think there was anything bothering you. Liz and Aidan lately seemed to notice every minor facial expression I made, which was more than a little aggravating.

Funnily enough, I hadn’t really given a lot more thought to my newly discovered immortality. I mean, it wasn’t that I didn’t have questions, like why I was like this, or how it happened, or what I even was. It was more that I didn’t have any way of answering those questions, and there didn’t seem to be much point in keeping myself up worrying about it.

I had tried to go back through my medical history, but all I managed to figure out was that my family was perfectly normal, and I’d never been sick a day in my life. So I could probably assume that whatever was different about me, it had always been that way, and it probably wasn’t genetic. Then again, that last part probably should have been obvious, given that the entirety of my immediate family was deceased.

Day to day, I didn’t feel any different to anyone else. At least, I didn’t think I did. I couldn’t know for sure what a normal, mortal person felt like, but nothing I’d ever read or watched led me to believe there was anything different about my human experience. It seemed entirely possible that, were it not for the accident, or my attempted suicide, I would never have found out that I couldn’t die. Though, that did raise some other questions. Like, if I couldn’t die, did that mean I wouldn’t die from old age? Did that mean that I wouldn’t age, or that I’d just keep ageing without dying? Would I end up as a giant head in a jar?

If I was going to stop ageing, when would that happen? At eighteen? Thirty? Fifty? What were the rules for this sort of thing?

So, yeah, a whole lot of questions I had no way of answering, and plenty of other things to keep me distracted. Mostly, I spent a lot of time thinking about Rachel.

The fact that Rachel was a girl barely registered in my mind. It didn’t feel like a relevant factor, or rather, I didn’t think I would feel any differently about it one way or another. What that said about me, I wasn’t sure. To be honest, I didn’t really care.

What I was struggling with was whether my feelings for her were romantic, or just strong friendship. I’d never really pictured myself as the dating type, and I didn’t know if my reservations were coming from that, or if it was just that I wasn’t interested in her in that way. Truth be told, I didn’t even really know what dating her would be like.

The relationship we’d had for five years had been great for both of us. We both seemed to get exactly what we wanted, and we didn’t have to worry about anything changing. Dating, though… Dating definitely meant changes, and I didn’t like not knowing what to expect.

Relationships, at least the romantic kind, end. That’s just the way the world works. Friendships don’t end nearly as often. By that line of thinking, I was a lot more likely to lose her as a partner than if we just stayed friends. On the other hand, now that our feelings were out in the open, maybe staying as just friends would actually be more of a strain on the relationship.

I tried to picture myself dating somebody else, but it didn’t really mean anything to me. I just inserted a blank slate into my imagination, and it didn’t tell me anything. Then I tried to picture her dating someone else, and I didn’t really mind that, either. I thought about her keeping secrets from me, or brushing me off to spend time with someone else, and I didn’t like that, but that wasn’t the same thing.

My head just kept going around in circles, asking myself the same questions and not having any solid answers. All I knew was that I didn’t know what I wanted, and I really wished that I did. There wasn’t even anyone I could talk to about it, because I knew there was no way Aidan or Liz would be able to help. It was just a little outside of their wheelhouses. Sadie already didn’t like Rachel, and I doubted telling her about any of the recent developments would change that. Mark was, well, not exactly a good listener, not unless he thought he could get a story out of it. I didn’t really have a lot of other people in my life. Not that I trusted to that extent, anyway.

Maybe punching someone would help, I told myself, as I rounded the corner to see a couple of well-dressed thugs stepping out of a fancy car, and walking up to the front door of a nearby house. They definitely looked like they were up to no good. I crouched in the bushes, watching them.

“This the place?” one of them asked, looking around suspiciously.

“The address is right,” the other confirmed. “But remember, we ain’t supposed to hurt nobody. Just break a few things, get the fear going, alright?”

“Fuckin’, I know, right?” the first one retorted, clearly annoyed.

They rung the doorbell and waited. Nearly a minute later, a bleary-eyed, middle-aged man opened the door. He stopped in his tracks when he saw the two thugs, and tried to shut the door again, but they muscled their way past him, then slammed the door shut behind them.

I thought about sneaking in and helping the guy, but reminded myself it would probably cause more harm than good. They seemed like some kind of gang enforcers, and if they didn’t finish the job they were sent for, it would only make it worse in the long run. Waiting outside was hard, though.

While I waited, I amused myself by letting the air out of one of their tyres. There was actually a method to my madness, but it was also just surprisingly satisfying. I snuck back into the bushes, and went back to waiting.

The two men didn’t come out again for more than half an hour, and when the front door finally opened, my legs were starting to feel cramped. They got into their car and started to drive off, but didn’t get far before they realised one of their tyres was flat.

I followed in the shadows until they pulled over, just around the next corner. One of them got out, locating the flat tyre and cursing. Time for me to see what I could do.

I snuck up on the guy as he stood in front of the tyre with his back to me, and kicked him in the back of the knee, causing him to drop down. As soon as his knees hit the ground, I grabbed the back of his head, slamming it into the side of the car, stunning him long enough to thread one of his wrists through the loop I’d already prepared in the rope I’d brought with me. I yanked his arm sideways, towards the other one, and grabbed the free wrist. He twitched and tried to pull away, but I was just fast enough to get the other wrist through the loop. All I had to do was pull the loop tight, effectively handcuffing him, which would hopefully give me enough time to-

My ears were filled with the loudest, most terrifying bang I had ever heard in my life. In the same moment, an incredibly brutal wave of force crashed into me knocking me over sideways. My head collided with the pavement, and my body was too stunned to react.

As the shock wore off and the pain began to spread, I realised that I’d been shot. My entire chest ached like it never had before, and I could barely breathe. Where did this fucker get a gun?

I saw the hulking figure of the other man looming over me, gun pointed down at my face.

“Stupid little shit,” he said, and I winced, bracing for another bullet.

“Idiot, just untie me, would you? Half the bloody neighbourhood hear that. We need to get out of here.”

And then the silhouette above me was gone. Not long after that, I heard the car race off. I coughed, and blood splattered out in front of me. I lay there for what felt like forever, shivering and dry-heaving until eventually, I heard a voice.

“Somebody’s been shot!” they cried, and I panicked. “Call an ambulance!”

With a desperate effort, I pulled myself up to my feet, staggering sideways. There were cracks everywhere, the impossible cracks, and I could barely see what was happening around me, but I needed to get away. I couldn’t let myself be found there, not by paramedics or police or anyone else.

“Whoa, take it easy, kid,” someone said. I couldn’t tell if it was the same person or not. It didn’t matter. I started running, ignoring the burning pain in my chest, and the way my limbs all felt like they weight one hundred times more than usual. I wan until I was sure nobody was following me, and then I collapsed.

I don’t know how long I laid there for, barely able to move. After a while, the pain had faded to a manageable amount, and I realised I could probably get up, if I needed to. It was a while longer after that before I actually did.

Sadie was waiting up for me when I crawled back in through the window, though thankfully she was the only one. She took one look at the bloody mess that was my clothing, and just ran up to me and hugged me.

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” I told her, irrationally worried she would get blood on her.

“What happened?” she asked, looking mortified.

“I got shot.”

“What?” she cried out, practically shouting.

“C’mon, I’m fine. Now, at least. Hurt like Hell, though. I do not want to do that again.”

“Does that mean you’re going to stop doing this?” she asked hopefully.

“It means I need a bulletproof vest or something,” I told her.

She pushed away from me with a huffing sound, and I laughed. Despite the way things had gone, I felt good about the night. Somehow, it felt like I was a little closer to figuring it out.


Next Week: You Know Me So Well