Title: Pulse of the City
Author: Harper Kingsley
genre: sci-fi, superhero, YA
Summary: The idea that he’d vaporized a bunch of living creatures so easily made her skin crawl. He could kill anyone he wanted, sweep up the evidence, and no one would ever know what he’d done. It was frightening.
Here’s an excerpt from “PULSE of the City.” Enjoy!
Her life had become a thing of rules and routines. A comforting kind of sameness of school and home as she fit herself into the life of a normal girl.
Her first memory was of the loneliness of the hospital and the uncertainty of knowing that she was no one and nothing. She was a blank slate with nothing to fill her and it had been terrifying.
Nurse French had named her, which had been a nice gesture, but the woman was the most unimaginative person in the world. Which was how the girl had found herself with the name of Susie Smith.
She had spent weeks in the hospital before it had been decided that there was nothing more they could do for her and she had been moved into foster care. She was officially part of the system.
Her foster family–the Petersens–were nice enough and she was glad that they had taken the chance to take a strange girl into their lives. Especially since no one knew if she was a good person to have around or if she was going to be yet another “problem kid.” She didn’t know know how she had known about problem kids, but there they were in her memory and she really didn’t want to be one.
Which is how “Susie Smith” became the perfect girl.
She went to school and earned good grades. She made “acceptable” friends. And she happily helped out around the house and in the day-to-day lives of the Petersens.
She had no idea what kind of girl she had been before… but this was what she was now. A normal girl through and through.
Except that something in her drove her to do some fairly strange things. Like when she found herself sneaking out through her bedroom window so she could wander the streets at night, looking for something she didn’t know how to find and wouldn’t recognize if she did. Or the way she had taken to the ropes in gym class like they were her second home, frightening everyone by shimmying right up to the ceiling… and flipping off in a perfect landing.
There was some speculation that she might have been a gymnast. Laura–Mrs. Petersen–had suggested that they maybe look into some extracurricular gymnastic lessons for her, but she wasn’t sure.
She knew it was stupid, but something in her said that there was something different about her.
And more than anything, “Susie Smith” didn’t want to be different.
“Mr. Danvers is such an asshole,” Christy moaned, throwing herself in her chair.
Susie looked at her and raised an eyebrow. “What’d you do this time?”
“It’s not what I did,” Christy said, grabbing her slice of pizza, “it’s what I didn’t do.”
“That torturous English paper he assigned. I mean, geez, it’s like he thinks none of us have other stuff to do or something. It’s ridiculous.”
Susie glanced at Becky and they shared a laugh. Christy was well-known for her dramatic tendencies.
It was kind of nice to have friends and they were actually pretty understanding about the things she didn’t know… they didn’t treat her like the freak they totally could have. It made her glad ’cause they helped her fit into this strange life where everything was new and she didn’t know even half the things that she was supposed to.
Reaching out her hand, she snagged a French fry from Becky’s tray. “You’re kind of crazed if you really think your parents are going to let you get away with flunking English. They’re gonna have your ass going to summer school faster than Lightspeed taking a jog around Mars.”
“God, why do you have to be so frickin’ right?” Christy groaned, covering her face with her hand. “Little Susie Homemaker always making with the know-it-all-ness. It’s positively grotesque.”
Looking around the mall food court, Susie ignored the pseudo-insult. She knew Christy didn’t really mean it.
It was funny, but she knew they were catching quite a few looks from the people around them. Three girls in private school uniforms–black and red plaid skirts, short-sleeved white blouses, and black and red striped ties. It was any lecherous man’s high school girl fantasy and it made her want to laugh uncontrollably.
There was just some part of her that couldn’t believe where she had ended up, though she couldn’t explain why it seemed so ludicrous.
Sometimes, she looked around her life and had to wonder why it all felt ridiculous. There was this feeling of cynical disbelief inside, and she didn’t know where it came from. It was just such a part of her, even though she couldn’t even recognize the voice in her own head anymore.
“Hey, what’s the matter?”
She turned her head to face Becky and forced a smile. “Nothing, I was just kind of daydreaming. I don’t know.”
Becky gave her a sympathetic look, but was nice enough not to say anything.
They both went back to eating and listening to Christy complain about Mr. Danvers and his evilness. She was so serious about it too.
Sitting there in the food court of the Peoria Mall, Susie Smith couldn’t help thinking back to when her short life had begun…
It had been terrifying, waking up strapped to a gurney, a scream still bubbling past her lips. Blood from where her head had been split wide open had soaked into the neck of her shirt. She would find out later that her brain had actually been exposed, that doctors’ had to pick shards of cement and glass out of her brain before closing her skull back up.
Her eyes had twitched frantically around and she would always remember the kind of flashing horror of the ER around her. A room full of screaming people, their bodies broken apart and ground into so much meat.
She remembered hands touching her, cutting her clothes off of her, sticking needles into her flesh. She remembered the face of an emergency room nurse looking down at her with an outwardly blank expression, but pitying eyes. She remembered thinking that she was going to die.
It was only later, waking up in the still quiet of her hospital bed, that she realized that she didn’t even know her own name or where she was.
She had been found in the midst of a super battle gone awry.
Malice, a supervillain, had attacked Megalopolous with her henchmen, the Malcontents. They had blown up ten city blocks during the Arbor Day parade. Hundreds of people were killed either at that instant, or in slow agony while rescue personnel fought to extract them from the wreckage.
The Teen Demis had show up and eventually stopped Malice, though she managed to escape.
Susie was glad just to be alive, even if she didn’t remember her own name or where she came from. Though she wondered sometimes if maybe she had had a family at the parade. If maybe they were dead and she was never going to know to even mourn them.
Eventually she went to live with the Petersens. She spent months in either the hospital or in a group home, then she was finally taken in by her foster family.
And no one ever came forward to say that they knew who she was. She was just another unclaimed victim of Malice the Malevolent.