Times of Trouble
Running, hiding, resting… then far too soon, doing it all over again under the angry sky. So Mary ran, dodging through the debris of what was a generic suburb only a few days before. Before she’d made her beast real, and set it loose to rampage across the world. Now Mom was dead from alcohol poisoning, and who knew where Dad ran off too?
Holding a rag to her mouth, she ran through smoke and dust —
“Hey! Is someone there? Help!”
Mary skidded to a stop, looking around.
“Over here!” A boy’s voice. He coughed, and Mary saw him wave. She reached behind her back, making sure the butcher knife was still in its sheath. She’d only had to draw it once in the last few days, and that was enough to make the asshole back off. Maybe she was just an emo art chick on Monday, but now it was Thursday. Or maybe Friday. Now she was someone who could bring utter destruction with a few strokes of a pencil.
“Can you get this off me?” He looked soft, like a gamer or geek, seated with his back to the building wall. A utility pole lay over his legs; it wasn’t crushing him but it had him trapped. “Do you have any water? I’m thirsty.”
“How long have you been here?” She slid her pack off her shoulders, keeping her knife hand free, and fished past her sketchpad for a water bottle.
“Since this morning. One of those earthquakes hit, I ran outside, fell down, and this happened before I could think. Thanks.” He drained the bottle. “Hey — don’t you go to Four Oaks?”
Mary squinted, trying to put a name to the face. “Yeah. Or I did.” She looked at the end of the pole. “I dunno if I can move this or not.”
“I’m Eric Perch.”
“Yeah, that’s right. You were in my U.S. History class. I’m Mary Smith.”
He sang, not too badly: “When I find myself in times of trouble, something Mary comes to me —”
“Haha.” She straddled the pole and heaved at it, then put her back to the wall and tried pushing with her feet. “Crap. Sorry.”
“Maybe you can lever it off?”
“With what?” She looked around, but didn’t see anything.
“Well, you can’t just leave me here!”
“Wait. Wait a minute. Let me think.” Mary stepped back and stared, composing the scene. I can’t, she thought. But if she did those other things, why not this? Why not something useful? She sat down, some distance away, and took out her sketchpad.
“What are you doing?”
“Shut up. I need to think.” Mary sketched the side of the building, then Eric standing, looking down at the pole. After a minute, she lost herself in the drawing. It might work, she thought, looking it over. Under the pole, and snaking around his feet, she added LET IT BE, several times. “Pull your feet in, if you can,” she said.
“Just do it!”
“Fine!” A minute later, she heard then felt the ground shake. She put her hands out, looking around her to make sure nothing was about to crush her. The pole lurched forward and rolled away.
“Yes!” She looked, and Eric pushed himself upright, staring at the pole. “I’m free! Hey… how did you know the earthquake was about to happen? What were you drawing?”
Mary sighed and showed him the sketch. “I made it happen.”
“No way.” But Eric’s voice held no conviction.
“Yeah, way. Why do you think the tornado hit the school last Tuesday?” She flipped to the drawing of Amber’s dead hand. “Or that… thing out there?” She showed him the beast.
“Wow. How did you get close enough to draw it?” he breathed.
“I drew it before. What’s the same in all of those?” She handed him the sketchpad and glared, arms crossed.
Eric flipped back and forth. “They’re all pencil or colored pencil, but that’s not what you’re asking, is it? Who’s this guy?”
“Some creep who tried to get too close two weeks ago.”
“Oh. Hey, is it the ‘let it be’ thing?”
“Yeah. If I write it on something I draw, it happens.”
Eric gave her a strange look — not total disbelief, but not belief either. “They say, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof,” he said.
“Well, you’re standing up.”
“It could’ve been a coincidence.”
She glowered. “You want me to put you back under it?”
“No! No… wait.” His stomach growled, or maybe it was hers. “Food. Can you make food?”
“I never tried. And there’s gotta be food around here anyway.”
“Uh-uh. There were six of us until yesterday, we were staying in my apartment. We picked this area clean. They ditched me when we ran out.”
“Where’s your parents?”
He looked away and shrugged. “So can you do it?”
“I guess I’ll try. I’m hungry too.” She thought a minute, then sat down on the utility pole and started drawing: herself and Eric, sitting on the pole and sharing lunch. A plastic grocery bag sat at their feet. Not her best work, but… whatever. She added the magic words.
“I don’t see anything.”
“Stuff doesn’t happen right away. It usually takes a minute. Just —” Again, the ground shook. The trunk of a car across the way rose on its own, and Mary got up to check it out.
“Forget it,” said Eric. “We checked that car out three days ago.”
“Good.” Mary turned, holding a plastic grocery bag. “You can’t say it was there, then. Bread, peanut butter, jelly, and some plastic knives. All that, and a bag of chips!” She grinned. “Let’s eat. I hope you’re not allergic.”
Eric gaped. “Wow. That’s some trick. I’m glad you’re using your power for good now.”
“Yeah. With great power comes great responsibility.”
Mary shook her head. “I never asked for this. All I wanted was to be left alone.”