Chapter 43: Freak Like Me
from the 2002 album “Angels with Dirty Faces” by Sugababes
received 01:14, 30 July 2019
I got a freaky secret, everybody sing
Cause we don’t give a damn about a thing
Freaks like us don’t get a lot of attention nowadays. Maybe if we were the only ones with powers in the whole world — then there’d be people chasing us down city blocks, begging us for interviews. But that’s not what the world is like nowadays. Do a miracle in the middle of the road, and nobody bats an eyelid.
Or do they? Mo and I walk down a side street, fresh from dinner, and a short, sharp laugh bursts through the air. Mo jumps a little. “Dear God, for a moment I thought it was another robber.” But it’s not a twisted laugh, not the sort you’d hear from a killer before they move in for a kill. There’s cheers erupting from down the street, the general hubbub of a crowd. Mo and I look at each other: surely there can’t be anybody out here, on this cold Friday evening?
“Reckon it’s some kind of festival,” she says. “Let’s go and see.” And before I can say anything she’s off, tumbling down the street, a whisper of her lingering in the breeze.
“Ever thought that the Germans could be night owls?” I ask, trying hard to keep up with her. We’ve been in Munich almost a week now. Nobody ever comes out after sunset, nobody except foolish tourists like us, spending the cool night wandering the streets and looking for somewhere interesting to go, somewhere to spend the night. Somewhat out of breath as I catch up to her. “Maybe we should just go back to the hostel and lie down. It’s not like you like this kind of thing anyway.”
Perhaps she heard me, perhaps she didn’t, but she doesn’t say anything. She soldiers on nonetheless, led on by the pied piperish sound that grows and spills past the concrete and bricks. What the hell could be happening down there? We turn the corner, and suddenly there’s music and people everywhere, jam-packed into the square. It takes my eyes several minutes to get used to the dark, distinguish the individual shapes from the great heaving mass of people. A voice comes from beside me.
“Look at all those people,” breathes Mo. “It must be — what are all those people doing?” Even as she says this, the person closest to us blows a bubble out of her mouth, begins pulling at it with her hands. Slowly at first, then more frantic and assured, until her hands are almost a blur. It becomes a cube, a star — something that isn’t possible. “Oh my God, Thomas. It’s a festival for people like us!” Mo rolls up her sleeves, rubs her forearms excitedly, stands up a little straighter. “You ready? Let’s get stuck in…”
“Absolutely not, it’s just another place where people are showing off what they can do with their powers.” It’s not that I don’t want to join in the fun — of course I appreciate everyone here, love the fact that they’re doing all of this, but… I don’t know. This crowd doesn’t need me. They’re all having a great time, and what do I have to join in for? It’s not like I can show mine off in there anyway.
“You’re not afraid of crowds, are you?” She turns to look at me, a coy smile on her face. Then she turns around and disappears inside the throng. Her hair bobs in and out of the crowd, a steady pulsating wave. God, she knows how to turn on the appeal when she wants to. I take a deep breath, and push after her into the tightly packed square.
It isn’t that crowded beyond that outer circle of people, actually. A lot of them are crowded around some other person who’s doing something amazing — perhaps walking on water, or doing quick-changes, or writing words in thin air. But there’s a general sense of continuity amongst these revellers: somebody pouring endless wine from his hands meets a man who produces a glass out of nowhere, only to have it fall from his hands when the woman next to him turns it into ice. And so on.
Nobody who’s here is quite conscious enough to tell me coherently what they’re here for though. It’s one big quivering mass, all the energy pulsing through the crowd like there’d be at a club. I brush against bare shoulders, come close to somebody’s cheek more than once. It’s a chore to push through the crowd, all the while keeping an eye on Mo. She’s moving along with the crowd now, letting it take her wherever they want, and I’m struggling to keep up.
The crowd behind me roars, and I turn, my eyes off Morgan for a bit. to see Audrey Hepburn staring at me. A few moments to register her fragility, then before my eyes she grows eight inches and huge muscles. Just like Laura could do. I think about calling to Mo, introducing her to this person — but no, that’s a bad idea.
Everything here is loud and gaudy. It must be some sort of celebration of their powers… strange. In a world where every fourth person has a superpower, how the hell are we still applauding this kind of thing? Perhaps it’s simply cause these people have the more spectacular powers, or maybe it’s just something they do to celebrate themselves. Lucky them, always proud of who they are.
Right from the corner of my eye Morgan’s getting in on the fun though. What’s going on with her? Not that she’s ever made a secret of her powers, but I never thought she’d be interested in these party things. She’s walking around the market, clapping with the crowd, cheering for everything she sees.
Can’t leave her alone for too long. What if something dredges up the old memories? Walk up next to her, just as the crowd roars again. There’s a slight surge in the crowd, and in the light of the lanterns flaring from up high (where the hell did they come from?) she looks like a general leading her troops. In a few seconds she strides to my side. “THIS IS GREAT!” she shouts over the hubbub.
Our bodies are now close to each other, almost pressing against one another. Even with the advantage of height it’s a chore to look over the heads of everybody here: everywhere around us there’s a blur of faces. So I look at her, the only person I know within this crowd, and she smiles at me encouragingly. Even in the dark, her eyes are blazing electricity. I’ve seen that look only once before — that party which Jacqueline dragged her to and she had too much to drink. But she’s coming into her own here, a natural high from which nobody is bringing her down.
Utterly bewildering, that woman. Strangely I feel myself smiling too — what the hell’s going on? Looking at her, dragging me everywhere, I suddenly realize what an infectious laugh she has, and how little I’ve heard it before. You find yourself jumping and cheering with her after some time, even in the middle of a crowd. How does she do it?
“Really, Morgan, slow down,” I pant as I try to keep up with her. “We don’t have to —“
“Shoot — oh my God look at this!” she interrupts. Turn to look just as somebody throws their hands upwards, and a burst of colour rises into the air, up, up, higher and higher and faster and faster until it can’t go any further and BOOM, the sky suddenly explodes into a million stars, showering onto our heads.
Everybody crowds around us, everybody is cheering. The fireworks continue to fly up high, high into the sky, and now everything is happening, the roar of the crowd and the flash of the fireworks, again and again, all and everything at once. Everything is flashing, everything is suddenly beautiful. For a moment, it could be a scene from heaven itself.
A gasp of happiness from Mo: a squeal from her, quite inhuman. the first time I’ve ever heard her say anything loud in the two weeks we’ve been travelling together.
For a moment she just stands there, her eyes open, standing on tiptoes as if she wants to get closer to the skies. Then her fingers begin to twitch and flail, like somebody’s fingers flying feverishly on an imaginary keyboard. Her eyes are big and round now, her mouth slightly open — an expression I’ve only seen once or twice before. There’s an idea in her head, and she’s savouring it now, I can see it in her eyes, the cogs in her head slowly savouring the effect it’ll have on everyone. Maybe it’s the reflections and the dregs of the firework glows, but she looks so much brighter, a beacon standing tall and brilliant in the crowd.
Then she looks at me. “It’s not over yet,” she breathes, and I can feel her whisper on my neck. A few hairs on my arms stand up on end, and suddenly it seems a lot more windy and cold. A shiver of anticipation crawls up my spine — what could she have in mind? “Go for it,” I say, even if I don’t know what she’s thinking of doing, and then she smiles, a genuinely happy smile with all her pearly teeth on hand. A thought shoots through me. Does she really — no, she couldn’t possibly — she snaps her fingers, looking up at the sky.
Even as she does that, I follow her eyes, and the heavens freeze. The patterns exploding in the sky stop moving, the reds and yellows and whites of the cosmos refusing to budge from their abode. The fireworks are still rocketing into the sky, but suddenly they falter. Perhaps the people making the fireworks, whoever they are, have noticed that the sky is suddenly much more dazzling, much more colourful. And now the crowd’s going quiet, a few hushed voices along the crowd. Then for the second time in a minute my hairs stand on end as a rumble in the masses before me intensifies, grows and flies into a triumphant roar.
Riveted to the sight above me, it takes me a while to find my voice amongst the people. Of course — I’m screaming as well. Because Morgan’s never been this brilliant before, because she’s never shown herself in such full splendour. How do you even come to terms with your best friend being the most wonderful person on Earth?
Gasps of amazement are still flying around us, but when I look back down again Mo’s looking straight at me. A tilt of her head, and we slip out of the crowd. A couple of people look quizzically at us, maybe suspecting us of these antics, but nobody else shoots us a second glance as we walk out through the square. The fireworks start popping again, but the sound abruptly disappears as we turn into Marienplatz. Just like yesterday, it’s quiet, and we’re the only people here in the square. Mo looks around. “Nobody here?” I nod. She lets out a whoop that sends a few pigeons scurrying off, and flings her arms around me, laughing like she’s never laughed before. “Did you see that! Everybody stopped in their tracks! Oh, that was such good fun just now, that was so beautiful! I wish I’d taken a picture of everything…”
“Lots of opportunities to do that now.” Is there anything that this woman can’t do? How does she do all these and still remain so cool with what she can do? How long has she hidden her powers from us? “How long have you known that you were capable of doing… that?”
“Oh, about that…” she smiles. “I didn’t. It was really a spur of the moment thing, I’ve never done anything like that before. But I was wondering whether I should give it a try just now.” She beams at me. “And it worked, didn’t it?”
It’s dim, and we can barely see each other’s faces, but I can imagine her cute little grin, sparklingly bright even in the shadows. If she could see mine, she would probably find a reflection of hers: the bliss of discovery, the excitement of possibility. The world has suddenly been blown open for her, and now she trips up the street as if she’s dancing on air. She has never looked prettier. We stop at the fountain and simply gaze at each other, taking deep breaths. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” she seems to say.
Got bored, wrote a bit. See how long it takes for you to figure it out. 🙂
Can I come over? Wanna talk about something.