December 24, 2004
Merry Christmas Eve! So much has happened in the past few weeks that Christmas, believe it or not, has taken the back burner. At least for me.
It started on the 9th. I woke up to find Mom crying on the phone with Aunt Miri. Jackson was in the hospital; his heart had taken a turn for the worse. He might need a pacemaker; he might need a transplant. But I wasn't going to stand for either. I filled my backpack with research and, instead of taking the bus to school, headed for the hospital. To be honest, I didn't know what I was going to do once I got there. I knew Uncle Pete and Aunt Miri were probably going to be there, and any number of doctors and nurses. I knew there was going to be medical staff. But I didn't care. I was going to help Jackson.
I got halfway there when someone tried to steal the backpack right off my back.
I whirled around. It was Derecho, dressed in black with a ski mask and tinted goggles, not an inch of skin or strand of hair showing. "Buzz off, Derek," I snapped. "Yeah. I know you're Derek Whitley. I know you're upset that I stole your victory in the science fair. But my cousin might die if I don't get the serum to him. Let me take care of him, then you can beat the snot out of me."
The robotic voice gave me chills. "Derek. Stop."
"I'm not Derek."
"Fine. Derecho. Whatever. Just let me get to my cousin, he's dying."
"Give me the research." He stepped closer to me, edging me towards the street. "Keep the serum. I get the research. I get the victory. You get Jackson. We both win."
I was tempted. But Jackson will need more serum eventually, and I can't save him once and not again. I have copies of my research--I typed it onto a library computer, and it's stored in a pair of floppy disks in my closet. Somewhere. I should be able to print it.
I was about to say yes, but instead, I said, "What are you doing to do with the serum?"
"I'll grow stronger," Derecho screeched in his robotic voice. "I'll grow unstoppable."
I was going to create a monster. I couldn't do that.
I took another step backward and slip off the curb. A pickup whizzed inches from me, honking, catching my backpack on its mirror. I was flung down, and Derecho was on top of me, trying to steal my backpack.
My research. My serum. Jackson's life.
I kicked him and slammed his face into the stoplight post. Nothing happened. He was insulated by his clothing. I needed to get his mask off. A glove. Anything. If he touched metal, he' would discharge. Shock himself. Hopefully incapacitate himself.
I dodged the series of punches he threw, then launched myself at his torso. He grabbed my backpack and tried to get it off me, but I twisted around and got a glove off.
Metal. I need something metal.
There was a penny on the sidewalk. I picked it up and pressed it into his palm, but I was unable to move before he discharged. He was shocked, I was shocked, and I think we were both robbed of our powers.
I was dizzy. My heart pounded, but with whatever strength I had, I ran to the hospital and took the elevator to the fifth floor, the cardiac floor.
I didn't know which room Jackson was in. I just knew I was getting dizzy, and my vision was blurring out. I ran from room to room, syringe in hand, trying to find Jackson. Finally. Room 520. Aunt Miri and Uncle Pete were there, and they were both startled to see me, but I plunged the syringe into Jackson's white arm just before my vision blurred too badly.
"Give him five minutes," I gasped. "Don't let him touch metal."
The next thing I knew, I was in a room of my own, with Mom and Dad talking to Uncle Pete. I felt like a wreck. I was weak, disoriented, dizzy, but I was alive.
"Where's Jackson?" I whispered.
Mom and Dad made a show out of calling me "sweetie" and asking how I was feeling and what I thought I was doing and sweet things like that. I ignored them. "Where's Jackson?"
"He's doing better," Uncle Pete said. "What did you give him? Cocaine?"
"An electrolyte serum," I said. "It won't hurt him. It didn't hurt me."
"He's undergoing testing right now," Mom said. "The doctors are going to review it, and they might put your findings in a medical journal. Would you like that?"
I nodded. Of course I'd like that. I looked at the TV to see a picture of Derek Whitley handcuffed to a hospital bed. I guessed justice had been served.
Well, now it's Christmas Eve. Jackson and I are home from the hospital, Derek is in juvenile hall, and I'm about to have the best Christmas of my life because Jackson is doing well for the first time in forever. He can play Dance Dance Revolution for an hour without passing out; he can participate in P.E. and stay up late and be a normal teenager.
I couldn't be happier.
Gotta go--we're heading down to Aunt Miri's for dinner and a few presents. I can't wait!
Kassie Kittredge, signing out!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.