Falling Off The Earth
By Britney McMaster
The rain was softly beating against the glass of the window, making the surroundings even drearier. Being stuck in this place was bad enough, but the rain forcing me to stay inside was even worse. Most of the kids told me it wasn’t such a bad place. They told me that everyone here wanted to be my friend, but I didn’t need their pity, nor did I want to become comfortable in this miserable place. I just didn’t belong here. Sure, I may not have parents anymore, but I did have siblings, so why was I in an orphanage? Why couldn’t I live with them? I as given lots of reasons why. The most common reasons were that my sister was living in a dorm and my brother lived in a one bedroom apartment. The other excuse was that they were both living out of state and I guess our home state didn’t want to fit the bill of extraditing me across the country.
I left my perch on the tattered couch by the window and headed to the closet they called a bedroom. I curled up on the lumpy bed and pulled Petey, my childhood stuffed penguin to my chest. I know it may sound silly for a fourteen year old boy to have a stuffed animal, but it was one of the few things I had from my old home and it smelled like my mom. It’s all I really had left. Everything else was gone now. I cuddled Petey tightly and closed my eyes as everything from that night came flooding back for the thousandth time.
I had been camping out in the back yard that evening. Mom and Dad had fussed over me, making sure that I had everything I needed in that little tent. Mom insisted on me taking my stuffed penguin, even though I insisted that if I was old enough to camp out by myself, that I was too old for stuffed animals. Mom just ignored me. She hugged me tight, leaving Petey in my arms before telling me she loved me, warned me not to stay up too late and told me to have a good night. I stayed up late anyways before falling asleep.
I woke in the early morning hours. I woke to the sounds of loud sirens. I realized that I was sweating and that it was incredibly hot in the tent. I smelt something burning. Unzipping the tent, I saw something that I will never forget; my house was on fire and nearly burnt to the ground despite the efforts of the firemen on the scene. I was horrified. Where were my parent’s? Why didn’t they come get me? Were they still inside. I screamed for my mom and dad before I dropped to my knees, clutching Petey to my chest. Tears blurred my vision.
I blinked my eyes trying to hold back the tears. When my vision returned I was once again staring at the grey wall of my tiny room at the orphanage. A single knock at my door signalled that it was supper time. I place Petey in a safe corner of my bed and left my room. I walked down the creaking flight of stairs and into the dining room. Most of the other kids were there. I grabbed a plate and picked what I thought looked reasonably edible from the buffet setup they always served the food on. I ignored the open seats at the weathered tables and opted for a ratty looking armchair in one of the corners. I curled up in it and picked at the stuff on my plate. It’s hard to believe I’ve been surviving on this bad cooking for nearly two years now. It wasn’t fair; I should be in the east with my sister or my brother. Instead I felt abandoned, stuck in this run down house, stuffed with kids that I didn’t relate to at all.
I finished my meal and headed back to my room. School was starting tomorrow and for the first time in months I would be able to get out of the gates of this hell. School wasn’t any better. The orphanage was in a different school zone from my last school and so I didn’t even have my childhood friends to rely on. Thanks to the rags I was given to wear to school, making new friends was impossible and I gave up quickly. I can’t live like this anymore. How can someone continue living with no one around to love them?
Morning arrived too early. I hurried and got in one of the few showers while there was still some hot water. I got as clean as I could, dried myself and then hurried back to my room to get dressed. I grabbed my backpack and removed the five textbooks that were inside. The books were quickly hidden underneath my bed. Petey, a picture of me with my family and a small amount of money I had been saving along with some blankets and clothes filled my bag. I looked around my little room for the last time and headed downstairs to eat breakfast.
I ate more than my fill and stashed a few bananas and apples in my bag. I found a quiet spot out front as we all waited for the bus. The bus arrived and a short drive later, I was at school. All the other kids made their way into the school while I snuck off the school grounds and in a neighbourhood park. The park had a river running through it and I was soon walking along the hiking trail that followed the river through several towns in the county. The trail wasn’t too rough and the walk went quickly. I munched on an apple around lunchtime and took a small break sitting in the shade, but I tried to push on as much as I could. I wanted to put as much distance between me and that orphanage as I could.
The air grew cold as the sky darkened and I removed the blanket from my bag and wrapped it around myself. I kept walking on until it was too dark to see. By the faint light of the moon, I wandered off the trail and found a hidden spot under a tree to get some sleep.
I was awoken early by the cold drops of rain hitting my face and soaking the blanket and my clothes. “This wasn’t part of my plan,” I grumbled as I grabbed my stuff and trudged back to the now muddy trail.
The rain stopped around noon and was replaced by a cool breeze, which did nothing to help me dry off. For most of the afternoon I was cold and damp but I had managed to make my way to the far side of the neighbouring town. I took a risk and wandered off the trail and into the town. Dumpster diving behind a bakery landed me a bag full of nothing but day old baked goods. I found a warm secluded area near what I assumed was the vent from their oven. I changed to drier clothes and curled up near the warm vent.
I woke early the next day and made my way back to the hiking trail. The hot September sun dried anything that was still wet from the rain the previous day. My long walk was bogged down with dozens of sneezing fits. Add to that a burning fever and I was having a really bad day. That night, I slept fitfully, waking every few hours. By morning I was tired, hot, aching sore and sneezing constantly. I was on the outskirts of the next town, where the trail came up right beside the highway. I was uneasy about this area as I would be in full view of the people driving on the road.
I was almost to the end of the exposed portion of the trail when a police car came to a stop beside me on the shoulder of the road. The officer and his partner got out of the car and walked towards me. “What’s your name son?” asked the one officer. There was no sense in lying, I was busted.
“My name is Adam... Adam Berkley.”
The one officer began saying stuff about finding the missing kid, I guess that was me. The other officer came closer to me and I decided I had only one option, run.
The officer was within about ten feet of me when I turned and ran as fast as I could. I made it back down into the forested area of the trail and turned off into the forest. My lungs were burning as I ran. My stuffy nose and lack of sleep was catching up with me. I could hear the cops getting closer but it was getting harder to breathe as I ran. I was gasping for air as I jumped over a fallen tree. I was slowing down despite my will to go faster. I was merely staggering forward as the cops caught up to me. I felt a hand on my arm. I tried to pull away as my head swam and everything went dark.
I woke up in a grey room on a stiff bed. I tried sitting up and something pulled at my arm. I looked down to see that I was handcuffed to the railing of the bed. I had an IV taped to my arm and I was wearing a hospital gown. I slumped back on the bed and closed my eyes.
I must have drifted off to sleep because I awoke latter to find a few doctors in my room. The doctors where busy removing the IV and one of the doctors was writing out what looked like prescriptions. A moment later a cop walked in with her, the woman who ran the orphanage. I was being sent back.
The cuffs were removed and I was taken out of the hospital in a wheelchair. The cop wheeled me right up to the old van the orphanage used. I guess they thought I might try running again. I got in the front passenger seat and we were soon headed back to my prison. I glanced in the back seat and was relieved to see that my bag I had taken with me was still there.
“You caused a lot of trouble running away like that, you know.” I didn’t respond at all. “What did you think you were doing?” she asked without looking away from the road.
“I was trying to go home.”
“Adam, we’ve been over this, you’re too young for your sister or your brother to take care of.”
“I don’t care what the state says, they’re my family. It’s where I belong.”
“Well running away wasn’t the right choice. Were you really planning to walk all the way there? And now you’ve managed to do nothing but make yourself sick.”
“It’s just a cold, I’ll be fine.”
“Adam, you have MORFS.”
“Yes, and I expect you to take your meds on time and get your rest. You’ll be off school until you’re cleared by the MORFS clinic.”
Soon I was back at the orphanage. I unpacked my bag, crawled into bed with Petey, chugged a bottle of morfs juice and soon drifted off to sleep.
I slept for most of the next three days. I woke a few times in the middle of the night and considered taking off again, but I was too sore.
On the fourth day I woke up feeling normal again. Normal but dirty. I made my way out of bed and to the bathroom. It was the middle of the day and the other kids were all at school. I showered until the water went cold before getting out and drying off. I went over to the sink and looked at myself for the first time since getting back here.
I didn’t look like the same fourteen year old boy that had tried running away only a week ago. My shaggy brown hair was now light blue on top with deep purple poking out from underneath as if I had dyed the top half and the bottom half of my head different colours. My eyebrows where purple now as well as my eyes. The bit of facial hair I had before MORFS was now gone.
Looking further down my body, I was impressed with my new physique. I was still skinny but very well muscled. My abs and my pecs were now rock hard. My arms and legs were just as well muscled. I ran my hand down my other arm. My skin felt odd but I couldn’t place what was different.
I got dressed in my usual tattered clothes and looked back in the mirror. With the clothes on, covering my new muscles, I looked like my old self, albeit with strange new hair style.
I went back to my room and curled up in a corner of my bed with Petey and the picture of me with my family. I barely resembled that little boy in the picture now. What would my brother and sister think when they finally saw me again. I didn’t look that different, but would they recognize me?
I headed back to my room and sat quietly on my bed to pass the time, something I did way too often. Once again my mind wandered and I was soon reliving the aftermath of my parent’s deaths. The firemen took me out to the front of the house where I was looked at by some paramedics. Once they decided I was okay I was taken by a police woman to the police station. I was there for hours and eventually fell asleep in the chair I was sitting in. I woke to my sister, Emily, nudging me. I was surprised to see her. She was supposed to be away at college.
“Adam, are you alright?”
“No,” I struggled to hold back my tears. “Mom and Dad are gone aren’t they?”
Emily just nodded and her own tears started streaking down her cheeks. I hugged her tight and we both sat there crying. Our brother Matt eventually showed up at the precinct. He was carrying a cardboard box. I recognized the tent and the other things I had in the back yard. “This is all that’s left,” he said sombrely. He put the box down and sat next to us. He put his arm around us both and Emily cuddled in even tighter.
The funerals were taken care of. I felt disconnected from the whole thing, knowing we were burying two empty caskets. With the house burnt right to the ground, the firemen were never able to identify any remains. I guess I was holding on to an irrational hope that my parents were still alive. But if they were, where were they.
I was informed shortly after the funeral that my siblings would be heading back to school in two days. My sister tried to explain to me why I couldn’t go with them. The next day, I was given a picture of my whole family by my sister. It was taken the previous summer while on vacation.
My recollection of those sad days was broken by a knock at my bedroom door. It was Ms. Hudson, the lady who picked me up from the hospital.
“Adam, you need to come with me. You have an appointment at the MORFS clinic.”
The ride to the clinic was short and quiet. Once inside I thumbed through some of the out of date magazines. Most of them had articles about MORFS abilities and such. Appropriate for the setting I suppose. After a fifteen minute wait, I was invited into the exam room.
“Hello there...” the doctor looked down at his chart, “Adam. How are you feeling?”
“Better than I was.”
“Good to hear. So, why don’t you lay back on the exam table and we’ll get you checked out?”
I did as I was told and the doctor started looking me over. He eventually had me sit up and tested my reflexes and my eyesight.
“Well, all done here. You’re in excellent health. Just your exam with our telepath and you’ll be finished.”
The doctor left and a few minutes later a guy who I guessed was in his thirties came in the room. He sat and told me to close my eyes and to try to keep my mind clear.
I felt a gently pushing in my head and after a few minutes it stopped.
“Okay, looks like you don’t have any powers, although I think you may have a physical enhancement. It may take some time to discover it though. You’re all cleared for school. And you can go back out to the waiting room now.”
We drove back to the orphanage and I went straight to my room. I skipped dinner that night and the next morning I faced the other kids for the first time as I entered the dining hall for breakfast.
I could feel everyone watching me as I got my food. I tried to sit alone but there wasn’t enough room. As my luck would have it, a couple of the bullies in the house sat next to me.
“Hey Adam, so are you really so much of a screw up that you couldn’t even run away properly?” taunted Tom. His friends all laughed.
“Nice morf Adam. You know you could have just dyed your hair, it would have been easier.”
“You’re such a loser Adam, you can’t runaway and you couldn’t even get powers from MORFS.”
I ignored their teasing while I ate. I ignored them on the bus ride to school as well. I was apparently their new target victim.
At school I was sent to study hall all day where I had to catch up on what I had missed. Since it was only the second week of school, the work was easy. At the end of the day I took the bus back to the orphanage, ate dinner and then went back to hiding in my bedroom.
My life continued like that for the rest of the week. By Saturday I was sick and tired of all the teasing about my hair color and my failed attempt at running away. The kids at school were just as bad as the bullies at the orphanage.
Saturday morning I went and ate breakfast and then went back to my room. I noticed it as soon as I walk into the room. Petey was missing. I turned and stepped out into the hallway. There was Tom and his goons. He was holding my stuffed penguin in his hands.
“Aw, does the baby want his little teddy back?”
“First, it’s a penguin, not a teddy bear. Second, you’re like nearly eighteen, don’t you have better things to do then pick on a fourteen year old?”
“Look boys, MORFS musta given the kid a backbone.”
“Just give it back to me.”
“You’ll have to get it away from us if you want it back.”
I ran towards them. One of Tom’s goons blocked me while Tom rushed outside. I got outside quick enough and continued the futile effort of chasing them around. I finally caught up with Tom. He tossed my penguin to one of his goons and pushed me back. I was surprised when I barely moved back. I tried my luck and punched Tom in the stomach. He stumbled back gasping for breath. I took my opening and turned to chase the one with Petey. Tom’s goons spread out in a circle around me and a game of keep away soon started. I got close a few times, but every time I did they would throw Petey even higher.
I was running across the circle when one of the guys threw Petey lower then they had been. I wasn’t sure I could reach that high, but I tried. I pushed off the ground as hard as I could. With my running start I figured I might be able to get high enough. I rose up and to my surprise I caught Petey easily. I was so elated that I finally got him back, that it took me a few moments to realize I hadn’t yet returned to the ground.
I looked down to see myself floating about eight feet of the ground. The guys were still standing in a circle looking at me in awe. Tom however had recovered from my punch to the gut and he was running towards me. He jumped up and reached for my feet. I lifted my legs, and Tom missed his grab and landed hard on the ground.
“I’ll get you!” Tom shouted as he tried jumping at me again.
“Well then you better go get a ladder Tom.”
Tom’s friends gathered around to try and boost him up. Meanwhile I was trying to make myself go higher. I tried to swim upwards by kicking my legs but that didn’t work. I even tried flapping my arms like a bird. I finally tried just pushing forward, like when you stretch your leg muscles while lying in bed. Surprisingly when I pushed down, even though there was nothing to push against, I started to move upwards.
I was now well out of the reach of Tom and his goons. But I was also picking up speed. My shaggy hair was getting in my eyes and my clothes were flapping in the wind. I tried ‘pressing’ up to slow myself down but that didn’t work. The earth was getting smaller and smaller beneath me. I broke through the clouds and was starting to freak out. I needed to figure out how to stop before I flew myself into a quick death in outer space.
“STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPPPPPPP!!!” I threw my head back and shouted as I concentrated on going back down. With my head back and my back arched I felt myself start to turn backwards. I straightened out my body once I was upside-down and I was soon heading quickly back towards the ground. I leaned back a bit and my body, along with its flight path, levelled out and I was now soaring through the sky, high above the city.
I threw my shoulder down and started spinning in a barrel roll. I started to get dizzy and straightened out again. I arched my back as far as I could and started flying in big loops. I reversed my position and crouched forward. I was soon flying loops in the other direction.
I spent a few hours flying through the skies of our city. The only problem was I knew how to make myself go faster but I didn’t know how to stop or slow down. That left me very scared to attempt a landing. I didn’t want to slam into the ground like a bird flying into a glass door.
I tried relaxing my body and I started to slow down. I spun my body around so my feet where in front of me. As soon as my feet came around in front, I came to a stop. I was still floating there, but I was finally stopped.
I now just had to figure out how to get down. I push down against the air and was soon streaking through the air again. I pulled my feet in front again, and again came to a stop. I figured there had to be a way for me to go in reverse and lower myself to the ground but I couldn’t find it.
I took off again and flew towards the orphanage. I flew in low near the ground and kicked my feet up in front of me only inches from the ground. The abrupt stop sent me stumbling across the yard. I ended up in a bush but I was safely on the ground again.
“This is SO awesome!” I hurried up to my room and put Petey safely away where Tom wouldn’t find him. I got all my stuff together for school the next day along with some of the money I had been saving up. If I was going to be flying at the speed I had been, then I needed something to keep the wind out of my eyes.
To Be Continued…
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org