Threat Level: N/A
Power Type: N/A
By the time Danny got home, his mind was blank, and he felt numb. Even though he'd cycled nonstop, going as fast as his legs would allow, Danny’s body was icy. It felt as if he’d spent in an hour in the walking freezer taking stock and forgotten to wear his jacket.
Spots populated his vision and a metallic taste filled his mouth as he failed to come to a graceful stop. The pedals slipped free of his feet, rotated independently before striking his right shin. It didn’t hurt. However, when the front wheel struck the takeaway’s backdoor and threw him face first into the wall, he felt a jolt of pain all over his body.
Danny’s right forearm broke the fall while the left continued to clutch the still bleeding wound. Whatever hormone or drug had contained the pain ceased working, and a throat-shredding scream burst from Danny. Stomach acids, pieces of chicken tikka, and other morsels he had snacked on while working cut it short as they came rushing out of his mouth and splashed the concrete.
The back door swung open, and Kaka’s concerned face peeked out. “Oh, no.” He gasped, racing to Danny’s side. Kaka dropped to his knees. Even though Danny’s vision had started to blur, he could see the wide-eyed panic on Kaka’s face. “You’re going to be okay,” he said. “I won’t let anything happen to you. You’re going to be okay, Danny.”
Kaka continued to speak, but most of it sounded like nonsensical rambling. One of his powerful arms slipped under Danny’s shoulders while the other went around his waist. He groaned as Kaka lifted him off the ground.
“I’m so sorry, Baba,” Kaka whispered. Danny didn’t remember the last time Kaka had called him by the term. It was a term of endearments Bengali-speaking parents occasionally used for their children. “You’re not a delivery boy. I should’ve just cancelled the order. I’ll make this right. I promise.”
Kaka carried Danny into the building. Instead of taking him into the kitchen or up to the apartment. Kaka took him straight to the chemical cupboard. He nudged the doorknob and it sank an inch into the door. When Kaka opened the door, the shelves of cleaning solutions slid sideways, revealing a set of stairs that led down.
We have a basement?
“I’m sorry,” Kaka said when Danny’s legs struck the doorframe and twisted his hip, disturbing the wound. “Keep the pressure on there. It’ll all be over soon, Baba. I promise.”
Kaka carried him into the dark, whispering what sounded like prayers under his breath. He placed Danny on a large wooden table, and the chanting grew louder. Danny had never seen his uncle as a religious man, and mostly speak in English. The whispering in old Bengali somewhat surprised Danny, but with his head feeling lighter with every passing moment, he struggled to focus on the words.
Danny felt a hint of amusement, wondering whether his meta gene would activate in his final moments. Despite cycling home with a gunshot wound and suffering a good deal of blood loss, he hadn’t lost consciousness. Now that he lay in the basement, his senses suddenly sharpened. Danny felt more alert for some indiscernible reason.
Why has Kaka never brought me down here?
Questions filled Danny’s mind as his eyes wandered around the room. It was clean and better furnished than the rest of the building. Bookshelves of dark rich wood lined the walls, and a large desk covered in leather-bound books sat below the stairs. It featured an aged HoloTop, too. Danny would’ve loved to use the space as a study area during his University days.
“What is this, Kaka?” Danny asked. Even though he’d grown more alert, his body still felt cold and weak. Breathing proved more difficult, too. As a result, getting out words was a laborious task.
“I’m sorry, Baba,” Kaka whispered, rushing, getting bandages, suture kits, several strange pouches and jars out of drawers. “This is all my fault. I should’ve never let this happen to you.” Danny struggled to make heads or tails of Kaka’s ramblings. There was nothing he could’ve done to change what had happened. Kaka was a powerless, too. “Just try to stay awake.”
“Talk to me then!” Danny’s attempt at exclamation failed as half the words turned into whispers. Kaka unstoppered a vial and poured its clear contents over the bullet wound. It stung. Danny reflexively grabbed Kaka’s shirt and pulled him closer. “What is this place, Kaka?”
“I thought keeping you in the dark and away from the League would keep you safe,” Kaka said. “I was wrong. There is no keeping safe for a powerless. I’m so sorry, Baba. It was wrong of me to let the falsehood last this long.”
“I’m not powerless?” Danny gasped as Kaka sprinkled a glassy powder in and around the wound. It washed away the cold and suddenly it felt as if his body was on fire.
“It’s not what you think,” Kaka answered.As he focused on the wound, his tone changed. “But you’ll understand soon enough. What you don’t get, I’ll explain afterwards?”
Kaka opened a glass vial and held it under Danny’s nose. The sweet smell flowed up his nostrils and a warmth pulsed through his body, washing away all other sensations. It reminded Danny of putting on clothes fresh out of the dryer.
“Holy shit, Kaka. What’s this shit you’ve been hoarding?” Quite a while had passed since Danny had engaged in marijuana culture or indulged in edibles with his ex-girlfriend. The vapours left him feeling better than anything he had before. As feeling returned to his extremities, Danny found it easier to breathe.
“You’re not powerless, Danny. No one in our family has been powerless for a long time.” Kaka’s words danced around Danny’s head like a colourful Bollywood sequence. Danny had never enjoyed song and dance movies, but Kaka’s words reminded him of the smell of fresh turmeric, sitar music, and people singing in Sanskrit. “It’s just that our powers don’t come from the meta gene. It lies in magic. That’s why you’ve awakened nothing. The ability to become a super has always been in your blood. You’ve just never had a source to draw from.”
“That sounds like a bad joke. I don’t think it’s the time to tease me, Kaka.” Danny laughed, feeling giddy, but broke into a fit of coughs as his lungs protested. Kaka continued to work on the wound, but Danny no longer felt it. Memories of his parents came to him next. He saw flashes of his mother. Danny remembered her smile and singing voice. Meanwhile, memories, including his father, were blurry. They had no photos, and Danny relied on Kaka’s descriptions to picture his father. However, he remembered the hugs. They enveloped Danny and left him feeling safe. “Or did I die? And this is a preface to my next, much better life.”
“You’ve not earned enough good karma for something better than this hellhole.” Kaka stepped away from the table, wiping his hands on a kitchen towel. Danny tried to look at the wound, but his body disobeyed. When he blinked and focused on the ceiling, he found a giant book with yellow pages floating above.