Smack. A frantic warning. A screech. A brief headache. That was all Dinah remembered as she lay on the crosswalk. She was not alone. A shopping bag. Rose petals scattered all over the place, getting trampled by the people surrounding her. She grimaced. That was Aliya’s gift for her birthday, which happened to be today. Just my luck.
She opened her eyes. Dramatic gasps soon followed from the crowd.
“She should be dead.”
“The tires went over her neck.”
But she was alive. In fact, she felt even better. She blinked once, then again, and stood up, much to everyone’s astonishment, including hers. Not even a limp. Red in the face, Dinah scooped the shopping bag from the ground and fought her way through the crowd.
A woman grabbed her shoulder, forcing her to turn around. If Dinah could guess, she was around thirty five. Judging by her attire, she was just back from work. She should’ve kept walking.
“You should go lie back down,” she said.
“But the driver?”
The woman averted her gaze. “He’s… hurt. More than he should be, actually. It’s weird. Apparently nasty, too. But are you okay?”
Dinah impatiently nodded. “I’m fine.”
Ignoring the woman’s attempts to embarrass her further, she walked faster until she reached a corner. Then she dug her phone out, sighing when she realized that it, unlike her, had not been spared from the accident.
A day later, and it was still broken beyond hope. She felt its absence when she walked down the stairs leading to her biology class. She should have been texting Aliya then, a minute or two before Mr. Hernandez would force her to put it down.
She was still feeling sorry for the rose petals she left behind when her footsteps slowed down. The sea of students behind didn’t. She missed a step. Before she knew it, her arms were flailing in the air, and she lurched down towards the staircase. Face first.
One. Dinah heard her own name, repeated twice. Two. Not again. Three. It took her three seconds to tumble down to the third floor. She got up, straightening her shirt, hoping that people would have continued their way forward by now, but of course they had to stand around her. She felt her face heat up. She groaned. She didn’t enjoy attention, not in the slightest.
“Don’t worry about me,” she insisted, but the worried looks on their faces did not change. “I’m serious. I have to get to class.”
She tried her best to act like nothing happened while she walked towards the classroom with all eyes on her. Just like yesterday, her body felt even better than before. Almost like she had been healed.
Heal. That was the word she was looking for. There was no other explanation that could be made. She could heal herself. She was invincible. She could jump in front of a hundred cars and still emerge without a scratch. That didn’t cheer her up. But what if she could use it for the greater good? To help someone?
When she opened the door to the classroom, two seats were missing instead of one. So I’m not the latest, Dinah thought, relieved.
“Sydney’s not here today,” Mr. Hernandez clarified. “She felt sick and had to go home.”
Oh. Sydney. No one reacted. She was the kind of girl that would say exactly that and then book a three-day trip to the Bahamas. Alone.
Her new abilities did not stop her from dozing through the entire lecture, and nor did Mr. Hernandez. By the time she woke up, everyone was already leaving the room in a line, towards the auditorium where the speech contest was about to be held. All seniors were required to attend. Why, she thought as she hastily packed her bag and jogged to keep up with the rest of the class.
They were almost the latest to arrive. Dinah knew this because they sat on the third to last row. Next to her was Taylor, who was friendly enough to make way for her as she made an excuse to go to the bathroom. She didn’t actually use it. She just stayed there as long as she thought was socially acceptable and quietly returned to her seat.
The podium was replaced by three more speakers by then, and this time it was Ivana, the gymnast. She said something about a metaphor and gymnastics and life and everyone laughed. Except for Dinah, who was too busy counting the minutes until the end of Ivana’s speech.
Dinah had had enough. Her head drooped to the side. Then a single bang. Ivana stopped speaking. Dinah jerked back up. The entire auditorium squeaked as people turned in their seats. A girl in a black jacket and mask had her gun out. Towards Taylor. Taylor.
Taylor obviously knew her, because he wasn’t as surprised as the rest. The crowd erupted, some screaming in terror, some shouting, “Gun!” and others just running out of the auditorium. The shooter wasn’t interested in stopping them. She calmly loaded her gun and pointed it back at Taylor. More panic.
Taylor grabbed Dinah’s right arm, visibly shaking. His eyes locked with the shooter in a silent plea. Dinah did the same, except the shooter wasn’t paying attention to her. She knew what she had to do. She looked around. Half the auditorium was already missing. Others were in the process leaving. Only several people stayed behind, staring at the back of the shooter in terror, frozen in each of their places.
Dinah yanked her arm out of Taylor’s grip, lunged towards the gun with both her arms extended, and the shooter pulled the trigger: bang, screams, crying.
Dinah stumbled back in her chair. Her vision went black. She touched her head. There was a distant ringing in her ears. She heard something drop to the floor next to her. The gun.
Then as if by miracle, her eyes snapped back open. Her heart was still beating. Beating fast. Instead of the shooter was a black mask on the ground. Dinah opened her mouth in shock, then in celebration. She did it, we did it, she was about to tell —
Taylor. His body sank lower and lower, blood gurgling out of his neck. It was Taylor all right, but not the Taylor she wanted to see, expected to see, had to see. Dinah’s face turned white. This didn’t make any sense.
Then she thought of the woman, the driver she mentioned that was hurt more than he should’ve been, then Sydney, and she realized that her power was no more than a curse.
A curse that she herself was forbidden to suffer from.
More people filled the auditorium, staring at Taylor, then at her, expressions changing from shock to anger. “Look, I can explain this, there’s something that I didn’t —”
But her words were drowned out by a chant that started with two people but was soon joined by others, and Dinah tried to raise her voice, but the people moved in closer. They soon surrounded her, all chanting the same thing, singing:
“Murderer! Murderer! Murderer!”