Regrets

I ascended the stairs, enjoying the strange sensation of physical recollection. The higher I climbed, the more I remembered, the memories shimmering, blossoming in color and clarity like a photograph being developed. It was nice, in a sad sort of way. I knew people who said the time they spent in high school were the best years of their lives. I had enjoyed high school, sure, but it was just a part of life to get through before the next thing. I didn’t think there was anything particularly life-changing about it. 

Except…

I had reached the doorway, and stopped within the threshold. She was cleaning the white board, erasing the day’s lecture. It looked like they had been studying Hemingway. She had always known how to make anything interesting. At least for me. 

I decided to not say anything, and leaned against the doorframe, watching her. She turned away from me, gazing out of the window for a moment before completing her turn to her desk. Her head was bowed, her hands experienced and quick as she placed a few things into her bag. 

When she finally looked up, and saw me standing there casually, she jumped. I thought she would put a hand to her mouth, or her chest, like people usually do when they’re startled. But she simply stood there, her hands at her sides, staring at me. I straightened, but didn’t speak. We just stood there, looking at each other. 

Finally, she said,

“Aspen?”

I nodded, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear. I walked into the room, skirting around the desk and toward one of the student chairs. I almost sat down out of habit, but stopped myself just in time. I pirouetted, trying to make it seem as though I meant to walk that way all along. 

“I didn’t know if you would recognize me,” I said, turning back to face her. I thought I caught the glisten of tears in her eyes, but she looked away toward the window again. 

“I’m surprised I did,” she said softly, keeping her face turned away from me. 

Suddenly, I wasn’t sure why I had come. I thought it would mean something, like we could have some sort of reconciliation. Now I didn’t know. Perhaps I was doing this for all the wrong reasons. 

“It’s, uh, it’s been a long time,” I said, thinking that maybe saying something would ease the tension. It didn’t.

She turned back to me and gave me the kind of look I used to love, that I used to love causing. I almost laughed, but I figured that might make it worse. She sighed, placed one hand on her forehead and the other on the desk, leaning into it. I recognized that gesture as well, and I was filled with a familiar guilt. 

“I assume you’re here for something.”

I shifted. 

“I was hoping we could……..I wanted to……………..would it help if I said I missed you?”

She made an exasperated sound and sat down heavily, and I followed suit by sitting down on one of the student desks. 

“I think it’s a little late for that, Aspen.” 

“It’s never too late for a second chance,” I said, hoping the sentimentality would appeal to her literature-riddled heart. She gave me that look again, and this time I didn’t feel like laughing. 

Instead, her gaze reminded me of the last time we were together. No matter what her expression, her eyes were always clear and focused, and when she looked, she saw. I had felt that gaze on me many times, although its character varied. Sometimes exasperation, when I fucked around too many times, sometimes confrontation, when she knew I was smarter than that. A few rare times – the times I cherished – longing. 

But more often than not, it was this look, the one laden with disappointment and laced with disdain. The one that said she knew who I really was, and couldn’t figure out why I hid it from everyone else. 

I used to love that look. It used to make me feel real. Now I just felt remorse. 

“I just think we should talk about how we left it.”

She spoke almost before I had finished.

“You mean the way you left it.”

I shrugged, but she was right. I was the one that had left. 

Sitting perched on that desktop, the memories bloomed around me. The whisper of her long hair against my arm as she looked over my shoulder at my homework. The brush of our fingers when I handed in an assignment. The way her gaze lingered.

But she was the one who stayed away, who stood her ground, who rejected me in my earnest naivete. She was the sensible one, the grown up, the one whose life would have been ruined by my desperate yearning. Only now I was afraid she had loved me more than I had loved her. 

And looking at her sitting at the desk, brushing the hair from her forehead, I realized she was still so young. When you’re seventeen, thirty-two seems ancient, but I realized now she was still under forty. She likely had a half a life ahead of her. 

I sighed, and stood. It wasn’t fair of me to come here again. It didn’t matter that we didn’t have a history, not really. We wrote one for each other, and it would be better to erase it.

She looked up at me, and I realized I didn’t have anything else to say. I’m sorry? For what? For being in love? As ridiculous as it sounded, we didn’t actually have anything to be sorry for. 

We stared at one another for a few seconds, and when neither of us broke the silence, I turned to leave. I paused in the doorway, for a fraction of a second, half expecting and half hoping she would call me back, say my name, ask me to stay. 

But she didn’t, and I stepped out of the doorway and back down the long hall. 

Ritual

They trudged through the trees just off the road, leaving the white SUV behind. They had managed to fit all five of them with their gear inside the smallish car, and their legs were cramped, their tempers short. Felix led the way, his flashlight bobbing in the darkness. They didn’t get too far before he stopped. 

“This is it,” he said, sweeping the light around the open space. There was a blackened ring of stones in the middle, and the clearing somehow felt more claustrophobic than the car did. 

They began dumping their gear as Felix set to work on the fire. Soon their packs were scattered and Felix had built a sizable blaze. 

“Come on,” he said as the others stood watching the flames. “It’s not going to last long.”

They split up, Tod and Ashlee following Felix, leaving Maira with Tay. They both turned the flashlights on their cell phones on and wandered in the opposite direction of the others. 

For a few minutes they walked in silence, stopping occasionally to pick up a fallen branch or bundle of twigs. Tay could hear the others talking and laughing over the crackle of leaves underfoot. The whisper of the fire seemed far away. 

“Have you ever gone on one of these trips before?” Maira asked as she bent to grab a twisted stick, considering it in the light of her phone. Tay shook his head before realizing she probably couldn’t see him.

“No,” he said, taking the stick she offered. 

“You should come more often,” she continued as they moved on. “They’re a lot of fun. It’s so nice to get away from everything for a little bit, you know?”

“Yeah, sure.” Tay winced as he walked past something that clung a little too insistently to his pant leg. He tugged himself away and stumbled. 

Maira looked back at him, then at the fire that was still visible between the trees. Tay’s arms were full, the phone in his hand tucked awkwardly under the wood where the light was essentially useless. 

“Let’s go back,” she said. “We have enough for now.” 

Tay nodded and they picked their way back through the trees toward the campsite, the darkness behind them seeming to urge them along. As they arrived, Tay dropped the wood they had collected beside the fire and unfolded a chair, collapsing onto it. Maira sat on a stump and leaned forward with her hands clasped, watching the fire as it shimmered in the wind. 

It was a few minutes before the others returned, their arms full of wood and their faces flush with satisfaction. They added their findings to the pile Tay started and prepared to eat. 


Once they had fed, Felix added more wood to the fire, allowing the blaze to grow. Tay shifted nervously in his chair. It was still windy, and at times the fire seemed to lick the lowest branches of the trees above them. The sparks flew freely between their feet, dimming slowly. 

Felix looked across the flames at Tay. 

“So, who’s going to tell him?”

Tay noticed everyone watching him.

“Tell me what?”

Ashlee leaned forward. 

“About the real reason we’re here.”

Tay looked around the group, their faces suddenly sober. He shivered. 

“Come on, guys. Don’t be assholes. If you just brought me out here to scare me, I’ll spend the night in the car.”

Tod shook his head, looking far too serious. 

“You know why we come out here every year?”

“Uh, you know where it is?”

It was Maira’s turn to look at him intently. 

“We have to come here. It doesn’t work anywhere else.”

What doesn’t work anywhere else? Come on, guys, seriously.”

They all looked to Felix, turning their heads simultaneously in a way that Tay found very creepy. Felix’s face was obscured by the fire, his image distorted. He paused, considering. The wind rattled the branches overhead. 

“It’s just better to show you,” he finally said. “If we try to explain it…we don’t want to mess it up.”

Tay gave up seeking an explanation and grumpily shoved his hands into his coat pockets, slouching down into his chair. 

“Fine,” he mumbled. 

But then everyone stood up and started to wander off in a clump into the trees. 

“Uhhhhhhh, guys?” 

Tay sat still for a couple of seconds, staring at the darkness that had swallowed his friends. They hadn’t even turned their flashlights on. He waited a moment more, deciding whether to go after them or just wait until they did whatever weird, secretive thing they were going to do, when a scream burst through the clearing. 

Tay leapt to his feet, his head turning wildly. There was no way to know what direction the scream had come from, but there was only one place to start. He stumbled around the fire and into the woods where his friends had vanished. 

As he moved away from the fire he heard a scuffling to his left. With trembling hands he took out his phone and managed to turn the flashlight on. He turned slowly, sweeping the ground with the light. He could still see the glow of the fire in the corner of his eye, and it seemed the flames had grown brighter. 

Something shone darkly in the light, and he froze. There was a piece of fabric on the ground, a part of a jacket maybe. No, it wasn’t just a piece of fabric. It was a sleeve. But it wasn’t empty. 

As Tay processed what he saw, he turned aside and vomited. As he closed his eyes, the image of what was left of Ashlee burned behind his eyelids. He coughed, heaved, and vomited again. As he stood, another scream, this one deeper, more desperate. 

Tears streaming down his face, Tay stumbled off in the direction of the sound, somewhere to his right. He thought he heard running, strangled cries, but he couldn’t tell if it was out there or if it was just him. 

Finally, he lurched into another clearing, the campsite and fire far behind. Felix was kneeling on the ground, looking up. Tay shone his flashlight all around, but could see nothing. He tried to call Felix’s name, but it came out a strangled sob. He was about to try again when he heard Felix whimper,

“Please. We didn’t know.”

If something heard him and responded, Tay didn’t hear it. He heard what sounded like wings beating if the wings were ten feet tall and made of wood, and Felix cowered. 

Please,” Felix pleaded, “we tried-”

But whatever it was cut him off, and Tay watched in horror as Felix was lifted off the ground and torn in half. 

Tay screamed and turned to run, tripping on a root but catching himself before he fell, scrambling in the dark loam of the forest floor. With dirty fingers he desperately tried to open his phone, call somebody, why was there no signal, he needed somebody to help, and then something exploded through his chest. 

Supers

Yes, this is Incredibles fanfiction. No, I will not be taking any questions.


“Whoa!”

“Careful, man! It’s not like you’re running around with a target on your back.”

Bullseye looked down at his supersuit and grinned. There was, in fact, a target embroidered into the fabric, but it was barely visible as he scrambled for cover in the dark. It was designed that way; artistic enough to convey his identity, subtle enough to avoid attracting unwanted attention. Which came in handy when he and All-Star were in situations like the one they found themselves in.

All-Star zipped up and crouched down beside Bullseye where he hid behind some trash cans in the alley.

“You doing ok?”

Bullseye nodded

“Yeah, fine. They barely clipped me. But it was close.

All-Star looked at him closely, then nodded.

“We could go higher…” he said thoughtfully, looking up. Bullseye followed his gaze.

“I could do that. Wanna go distract them while I get up there?”

It was All-Star’s turn to grin as he turned back to his friend.

“You got it,” he said, and before Bullseye could reply, he had disappeared, leaving a small poof of dust in his wake. So cliché.

Bullseye waited another few seconds before pushing himself up and running to the back of the alley, where the ladder for a rusty fire escape hung just out of reach. He scanned the ground and after a moment’s calculation, vaulted himself off the wall and managed to grab the bottom of the ladder. With a grunt he pulled himself up and started climbing, taking the stairs two at a time.

He heard a muffled crash and several gunshots, and climbed faster. He heaved himself onto the roof and ran to the edge, looking down to catch up on the action. All-Star was running circles around the bad guys, some two-bit robbers that happened to have a gun and some kind of hoverboard. Ugh, having access to supervillain tech on the black market was the worst.

As he watched, All-Star suddenly disappeared from the street and a few moments later appeared beside him.

“You ready?”

Bullseye laughed and backed up, trotting backwards to give himself some space on the rooftop.

“Always. Send ‘em on up.”

“Don’t miss this time!”

Bullseye would have punched him if he wasn’t so quick. He never missed.

As All-Star rushed away again, Bullseye tapped a few times on the bracer on his left forearm. Seconds later, All-Star was clamoring over the roof’s edge and running toward him.

“Here they come!”

The criminals rose into view, balancing precariously on the hoverboard. As they came into view, Bullseye raised his arm and a blast of energy shot out of his bracer toward the men. The hoverboard shorted out, quickly spun around twice, and then drunkenly fell out of the air. As the men tumbled to the rooftop, All-Star dashed over and bound their hands and legs.

The super grinned as he surveyed their handiwork.

“Bullseye.”


“Oh my god, you said it, didn’t you?”

Dash rolled his eyes as they shielded each other to change out of their supersuits. He dug his elbow into Austin’s side as he buttoned up his shirt.

“You know it can’t be your name and your catchphrase, right?”

Austin looked affronted.

“Why not? I’m being efficient!”

Dash rolled his eyes again and then smirked.

“Race you home?”

“Ha ha,” Austin replied, bending to pick up his bag. “I have a better idea. Ice cream?”

Twenty minutes later they were sitting inside the small ice cream parlor, licking at the quickly melting cones. Before Austin could finish his chocolate cookie crunch, Dash had already started on his second helping of strawberry shortcake cream. Austin eyed him dubiously.

“What?” Dash said through a mouthful. “I use up a lot of energy running around! All you have to do is point at people.”

Austin laughed.

“Fair enough,” he admitted. Dash expended much of that energy playing baseball and running track at school. Austin played basketball. They had to remind each other to reign in their powers while competing, and stretched their abilities doing super work.

After a few minutes of eating Dash broke their silence.

“I went and saw Violet.”

Austin looked up in surprise.

“When?”

Dash shrugged.

“A couple of weeks ago.”

Austin considered his best friend.

“You didn’t tell your parents?”

Dash hesitated, gazing down at the remains of his ice cream cone, then shook his head.

Austin leaned forward.

“What did you tell them?”

Dash shrugged again, but spoke with more confidence.

“I told them I was spending the weekend with you.” 

Austin gave him a small kick under the table. 

“You could have gotten me in trouble!”

“I know, I’m sorry!” Dash said, but he smirked while saying it. Austin made an unconvinced grunt and sat back in his chair. 

“So what did you go see Violet about?”

Dash’s smirk disappeared and he lowered his head, his eyes shifting to look out the window at the passersby. A look Austin had never seen before appeared on Dash’s face. It almost looked…wistful? Before Austin could decipher the expression, it was gone. Dash turned back to his ice cream and shrugged for a third time.

“It’s not important,”  he said quietly.

Austin was unconvinced, but he didn’t press it. The celebratory atmosphere they had enjoyed moments before was gone. They ate the rest of their ice cream quietly.