An Original Scene by Dana A. Caldwell

Kate lay on the jungle gym, the structure’s bars pressing uncomfortably across her back and her legs dangling down. She stared up at the night sky. So vast, so…endless. If only it could swallow her whole and carry her away for the rest of eternity.

        Kate’s watch beeped as it struck midnight. Another hour gone. She closed her eyes.

        The jungle gym creaked as a second person climbed up and settled down beside Kate.

        “How’d you know I’d be here?” Kate asked, not opening her eyes.

        A young man laughed. “You always run here to escape,” he replied. “You did when your dog died, when your prom date bailed on you, and when you got your first ‘D’ in college. Not to mention the fact that this is where we met. Just two five-year-olds fighting over who got to go down the slide first.”

        Tears welled behind Kate’s eyelids. Of course, he remembered. Colt always remembered.

        “I—” The words caught in her throat.

        “I know,” Colt replied. He took her hand, twining their fingers together.

        “I don’t want this,” Kate managed. “I don’t want tomorrow to come.”

        “It has to. That was the deal.”

        “It was a stupid deal.”

        Colt laughed slightly. Why was he so okay with this?

        “I’ll be alright,” Colt said.

        Kate scoffed. She opened her eyes, turning to meet his gaze. His expression was clean as marble, but his deep brown eyes held pain.

        “No, you won’t.”

        Colt turned over on his side so he could better face her. He held out his hand. A faint glow of green slid down the veins in his arm, pooling in his palm. From there, a thin plant sprouted, growing bigger and bigger until it became a white rose.

        Kate bit her lip to keep it from trembling. His powers were a gift. They should be shared with the world, not locked up and picked apart by scientists.  

        Colt pulled the rose free and offered it to Kate. “Even beautiful things have thorns,” he said. “We have to learn to accept them.”

        Kate took the rose, taking in a deep breath of its sweet perfume. “You deserve better.”

        “I’m not going to get anything better,” Colt replied. “I’m different. So long as I have powers, there will always be people seeking to use them.”

        “You mean abuse them,” Kate said darkly. “They won’t be able to replicate your powers in that lab. You’ll be tortured and killed, and the world will be no better off.”

        “If I don’t do this, they won’t stop coming after us,” Colt said. “I can’t protect you from everything. And then there’s my family.” He shook his head. “If I don’t surrender now, someone I care about is going to die. I can’t have that.”

        “So that’s it?” Kate asked. “We sit here and wait for the sun to rise and them to come and drag you away from me?”

        “It won’t be so dramatic,” Colt laughed. “I’ll hand myself over quietly. No one needs to see that part.”

        Why not? Do you not think they’ll keep their word? Or do you think we’ll act out and try and protect you like you’d protect us?

        Colt brushed Kate’s hair behind her ear, his fingers lingering on the pale scar that ran down her jawline, a memory of their first date. They’d been friends for years. Kate was the first non-family member to know about his powers. Over the years, they’d grown so close that it didn’t even feel like a first date. It just felt right.

        Then the Agency came.

        The restaurant windows exploded, showering the patrons with glass. Gunfire rang out, and pain shot across the side of Kate’s face. Colt dragged her under the table as their wine glasses were shot to pieces.

        “Stay here!” Colt had shouted. Kate had no choice but to obey and listen as Colt did what had to be done. At the end of the night, there were only seven bodies on the floor, but a part of Colt died too.

They spent the night in a cheap motel, too terrified to sleep. The next day began their new life of running, hiding, and fighting. It was miserable and painful in a thousand different ways. But lying there on the jungle gym beside Colt, Kate knew that she wouldn’t trade it for the world.

        “I should get back to the house,” Colt said. He kissed Kate’s forehead before climbing down. He looked over his shoulder. “Please come back before sunrise.”

        Kate nodded. “I promise.”

        Colt gave her a sad smile before turning away. Kate watched him leave, knowing it wouldn’t be the last time.

        She didn’t want to say goodbye. Was that selfish of her? Colt’s freedom meant a life of hiding for everyone he had ever trusted. But he was worth it. She knew that his family would agree. Only Colt, wonderful, selfless Colt, didn’t.

        I don’t care. He’s worth it.

        Kate looked at the rose in her hand. Pure white petals. Prick your finger on one of those thorns and watch them turn red. That’s what the Agency had done to Colt. They forced an innocent man to become a killer and an outlaw. And now they wanted him to be a lab rat.

        Screw that.

        At sunrise, Colt would leave to hand himself over to the Agency, but they wouldn’t keep him for long. If Colt was the rose, then Kate was the thorn. And this thorn was out for blood.