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The Emergence couldn’t have happened at a worse time for me, being alone in a foreign country with no one who knew me. I had flown to the States from Auckland airport less than a week ago on a holiday visa, but really I was scoping out a few job offers I had gotten. I looked down at the satchel that contained all my paperwork, including the real Bachelor of Engineering I had taken the last 4 years of my life to earn. The last informal interview had not gone well. Turns out that showing off the square of tough card that was my degree didn’t really phase them all that much.

It was getting dark now, although the cloud sodden overcast sky had been filtering the light all day, autumn being on the way in and all. Sorry, I should say “Fall” if I want to blend in a bit better. I was walking down a street in the edge of the central business district of Penrith. The towering skyscrapers loomed above me as I made my way to my destination. I needed to get to the bus stop and catch it back to my hotel before it got too dark.

I thought about all that had gone wrong in that interview. The man who had seen me was a terrifyingly tall and muscular individual who looked like he could pick my scrawny 6 foot body up and break it in half. I’d been instantly intimidated by the man, although I suspected that might have been why the man was in charge of meeting potential employees. His knowledge of engineering itself had seemed… lacking. Instead he had grilled me about my beliefs and my political leanings. I honestly wasn’t so sure I would have fit in very well at Yelmorn Industries. At least if their HR bouncer was anything to go by. When I looked up from my musings, I realised that as per usual, my usually fine sense of direction went out the proverbial window when I was deep in thought. Where the hell was I?

The street I found myself in was that type of area that usually nestles in the shadow of a major central business district. Surrounding me were ugly apartment buildings built during the 70’s when every architect collectively lost their minds and built concrete and brick monoliths. It had probably been cheap or something to build that way when all the hopeful factory workers were moving to the city, but either way, the area had not aged well and things looked a little run down. Nestled between all the huge ugly apartment buildings were three or four storey run down looking boxy buildings that held various stores and services that kept the local population happy. Well, as happy as they could potentially get in this city.

I spotted a bar and grill style place and decided to stop in and grab some dinner. The building had those cheap signs out front that were a decade out of date, but usually that just meant the food was great and the staff were a well oiled machine. The door had to be shoved just a bit harder than usual to open, but not prohibitively so. I realised as I surveyed the interior, with its booths and stool lined bars, that I actually had no idea how to order in a place like this. Do I go to the bar and order, then sit down, or do I sit down and wait for a woman in her mid thirties with too much makeup on to come and take my order?

I stood there and tried to gauge how things were done, and eventually spotted a waitress taking someone’s order, so I guessed I could just take a seat. I sat in one of the many empty booths and waited, trying to project a calm I did not feel. I was pretty out of my depth over here. Things appeared pretty much the same on the surface here in the States, but that’s where you screwed up the most. Just when you thought you understood how something worked, you were hit by a rude dose of culture shock. I had forgotten to tip the first time I went to a restaurant, and boy, had that been unpleasant.

“Hello, how can I help you today sir?” asked the stealthy waitress.

I gave a small jump as she spoke. I hadn’t heard her approach but quickly got myself under control. She was tall for a woman, and fairly matronly looking. Her large hips and broad shoulders speaking of a lady who could kick unruly customers out the door if she wanted. Maybe that was why the door stuck when you tried to open it?

“Hey, I’m not really sure what’s on the menu, but can I just grab like a cheeseburger and fries? Maybe a coke?” I asked cautiously.

“Oh wow, you’re a long way from the UK aren’t you? And yeah I’ll get you our standard burger combo, don’t you worry,” she said with a smile.

“Oh I’m not from the UK, I’m from New Zealand,” I said automatically. It was a fairly common mistake people made here.

“Oh, sorry, I’m just so bad with accents! Anyway, I’ll be back shortly with your order, sir,” she said, bustling off to wherever her job required her to be next.

While I waited for my order, I looked around the restaurant at the other patrons. They were mostly beaten down looking salary workers grabbing a bite to eat before they went home. There were a group of less than upstanding looking men and women who were making a bit of a ruckus. They looked like your typical racist skinheads with swastikas and racial slurs tattooed on their bodies. I tried my best to ignore them.

I guess someone else would have felt a bit threatened by their presence. It certainly looked like the other patrons were uncomfortable, but I’d always had problems with giving a shit. It’s not like I had no emotion at all, but the thought of dying or being hurt had never really been something I was overly concerned with. Life was just life, if it kicked you down then that was what happened. Probably a bit fatalistic, but whatever, I’d lived my whole life like that so far and it seemed to get me by just fine.

I looked over at that group of white supremacist ganger looking types and made the mistake of making eye contact with one of their number. I compounded this mistake by failing to look away with the fear their type usually expected. He didn’t start busting his way through the bar like you’d expect from some Hollywood movie, but he did stare me down. Yikes. I looked back down to my table and brought out my phone, pretending to text. It was a new model, one I’d managed to snag in a deal that would require a lot of payments down the line, but it was nice to have.

With my phone as an excuse, I ignored the angry stare long enough for his attention to move elsewhere. Which was good, because my food arrived. As promised, it was a large burger that would fill me up, along with a bunch of fries that would fill me out. In my waistline. I didn’t care, good food was good food and I could always work off the extra calories later. I made sure to jot down a rough estimate of the calories this would add to my day in my fitness app. I knew that the fries would be roughly 300 or 400, but the burger was a mystery. I hated being bulky, there had been a period of my life when I started university that I had let my eating get the better of me, and as my body began to get larger I had felt awful. I didn’t work on muscle mass or anything, I just kept my weight down at just above an unhealthy thinness.

The burger was meaty and filling, and I enjoyed every bite. Perfect comfort food. I ate at a moderate pace. I could see the wind picking up outside, discarded rubbish flying past the half shuttered windows of the restaurant. I checked inside my satchel and pulled out my favourite hoodie. The thing was a swath of thick dark green fabric, the front of which had a stylised graphical glitch on the front. As I signaled the waitress and placed some cash on the table to cover the meal and tips, I swapped my cheap suit jacket for the hoodie and instantly felt more at ease. I hated suits.

By the time I was outside it was beginning to rain, just small droplets, one step away from mist, but I wasn’t going to take any chances. I moved the contents of my suit pockets into my satchel to keep them dry. The satchel was much safer than the thin fabric of the pants. With my valuables secured, I set off into the drizzle towards where I believed my bus stop was. The city looked different in the howling weather. Ominous and wild, it was like the world was one step away from some terrible disaster.

I became more and more lost as I leant against the wind and moved through the unfamiliar city. It wasn’t until a beat up old station wagon pulled up next to me that I realised I was truly in trouble. The street was empty of foot traffic and only the occasional car drove down this side street. The car that had pulled up next to me spilled a group of people out of it, laughing and jeering at each other. When I turned to get a good look at them, I found myself locking eyes with the same man from before. He looked to be in his late twenties, with a multitude of racially charged tattoos covering parts of his body. While he did not have a shaved head, his hair was long and greasy. Just as gross in my opinion. I have opinions about hair.

“Hey there dude. Saw you eyeing me up in the bar back there. You got a problem with me?” he asked with a grim laugh.

“Um, no I don’t.” I said calmly.

One of his friends spoke up, a woman with some strange intricate system of braids keeping her hair close to her head, “Yo just take his shit. You said you wanted his phone so fuckin take it. It’s cold as your mum’s corpse out here.”

“Shut the fuck up!” Greasy hair yelled at her before he turned back to me, “You heard the lady, give me your shit.”

“I’d rather not,” I said with an eye roll. I knew this was going to end badly, especially if I didn’t tow the helpless victim line, but I just couldn’t be bothered reigning myself in. If they’re gonna beat and mug me, maybe just get it over with?

“You fuckin’ dumb or something? Give me your shit or I’ll kick the shit out of you and then take it,” he yelled at me.

The woman who had spoken threw up her hands and stormed over to me. Before I could really react to her approach, her fist flew into my stomach in a blindingly fast underhanded jab. I slumped to my knees, feeling the concrete take a layer of skin off them through the thin fabric of my pants. Unable to breathe from the hit to my diaphram I rubbed at my stomach with my hands as though that would fix the problem.

“What the fuck?” I tried to say, but no noise came out.

She casually picked up my satchel and threw it to greaseboy. Then she turned and frisked me, giving an especially painful twist to my dick and balls as she passed that area. She got a laugh from all her friends for that one. I felt my gorge rise in the usual response, my lovely burger and fries threatening to come up and show the world just how not lovely they really were. I managed to choke it back before it fully came up but it took a lot of effort and strained my already bruised stomach muscles.

“Alright he don’t have shit in his pockets, you got it in there?” She asked greaseboy.

“Yeah I got it, got everything actually. Dumbass just carrying all his shit in here,” he laughed.

“Nice. Now let’s fuckin go, I’m cold,” she said as she casually gave me a kick that sent me flat on my back.

“Whiny bitch. I had that covered,” whined greaseboy as he threw the bag into the car.

“Just shut the fuck up and get in the car dude,” she groaned.

Throwing insults at each other, the whole group piled back into the car and sped off, water spraying over me as they went past. I watched my livelihood recede into the distance with a sense of depressed resignation. The wind and rain picked up in a harsh gust, lashing my body with cold.

I lay there helpless on the ground for a long time. At first it was the pain that kept me on the ground, but after that, I just could bring myself to stand. Everything was in that satchel. I was screwed. What was the point anyway though? It wasn’t my idea to be in this stupid country, but my mum had plans for me. If I wasn't going to be successful then I wasn't worth the effort of raising. It was during my pitiful self depreciation that it happened.

There was this enormous flash of light, like the entire sky had erupted in lightning all at once. Following that, a huge rolling peal of thunder hit the earth like a physical force. When it struck me, I felt my entire body light up in an agony like I had never even imagined was possible. My body spasmed with the pain as it shot through every nerve in my body. I felt parts of my body writhe, my ears, chest, crotch and ass all burning with pain. My very bones lit up in the worst growing pains I had ever experienced. I passed out. 

This would later become known as the Emergence of Heroes.

When I breached the realm of consciousness once more, I felt absolutely god awful. My body felt strange on a fundamental level. When I tried to pull myself out of the freezing puddle of rainwater that had collected around me, my suit pants fell to my feet and were swept away by the now driving wind and torrential rain when I tried walking. I was lucky my boyshorts stayed on tight, otherwise I’d be freeballing it. What do you mean boy shorts, Callum, you ask. Boy shorts are girl underwear! Well I wouldn't be forced to wear them if guys’ underwear helped keep my bulge hidden when I was in a suit rather than emphasizing it. No one wants to see bulge.

I was soaked to the skin in the rain and felt bone cold. When I took a step, I realised in a strange detached way that everything was a lot bigger now. I knew right then and there that I was in trouble, and in a strange flash, I cared about living and dying. Why did I care about that now? Of all the times in my 23 year long life, I only began to care now? It must be the encroaching hypothermia messing with my mind.

I had to get somewhere warm, or get somewhere with help. I just hoped people wouldn't take me for a homeless guy or something. My body was so cold I was numb, I couldn't feel a thing and it was getting harder and harder to suck in a full breath of air. I managed to kind of shamble my way back along the street towards the way I had come. My legs refused to move properly and my center of balance felt way off. Something was stuck in my hoodie too, continuously tugging at my hips from the back. I struggled with the back of my soaking wet hoodie and felt whatever it was fall out. I still felt the tug on my lower body, but I didn't have the energy to deal with it further.

My vision was beginning to black in and out as I made it back to the main road where the diner had been, but I was feeling so weak, both in body and mind. I had stopped shivering by now and I felt strangely calm, despite my numbness and danger. In fact I felt almost euphoric. With a world weary sigh I collapsed outside the door to the diner and lost consciousness with the wind and rain searing my body.

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QuietValerie

  • New Zealand

Bio: You may also know me as Rosilys Inknose. I no longer post on this website, if you wish to find the continuation of my stories, or just the ones I haven't posted here, you can find me under Quietvalerie on scribblehub and Rosilys Inknose on tgstorytime.

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