Life is a thing. It has been busy. I mean…I MISSED TWO QUIRKS. *collapses weeping*
But I’m back for this one, so… *dabs away the tears with a handkerchief, straightening up bravely to face the world again*
As always, Jem Jones is the distinguished host and we are the writerly goblins who do her bidding, inventing small morsels of angst and/or humor for snacking.
A few things you don’t need to know before you read what I wrote:
- I’m pretty sure a stewardess is just someone who is actually on the plane, not just a random airport employee? But do I care enough to figure out the proper name for a random airport employee? Apparently not???
- Okay, but this kid. I have a new son
- Man, I’ve missed writing quirks
The rain isn’t going to kill me. If I stay under an umbrella and I avoid puddles and getting doused in gutter water sprayed up by passing cars, it might not even hurt.
Not that I have an umbrella.
I hate rain.
It wasn’t raining two hours ago when my plane landed. (When someone was supposed to be here to meet me, in case you’re wondering.) This one stewardess keeps asking if I want her to call someone for me. I told her my aunt and uncle are on the way and that they’re just running late.
I said “aunt and uncle” because it sounds better than “new foster parents”. People like to think you’re being looked after by a relative—someone who knows you and loves you. They don’t want to hear that you’re waiting for strangers who might not show up at all.
The not-showing-up-at-all is a very real possibility, considering that the 25% rule just got reinstated. That would get anyone second-guessing their decisions.
I have some very strong feelings about this, but I am trying my hardest to not act how I feel.
Even if it stops raining, there’s still going to be a bunch of standing water out there. But what’s the big deal? Even if I slip and fall right into the biggest puddle in the whole stupid parking lot (and I wouldn’t be surprised with my luck), it isn’t going to kill me. I know this, because I survived getting thrown into a fountain in 6th grade. Falling into a puddle couldn’t be worse than that. It’ll fry a bunch of circuits, hurt like crazy, and probably trigger an involuntary shutdown. It might take three days of repairs before I regain consciousness, but it won’t kill me.
I’d like to say I’m hard to kill, but getting thrown into a fountain or a puddle wouldn’t usually kill anyone. It probably wouldn’t even hurt them.
It does hurt, by the way. Even though it’s the parts of me that aren’t “real.” Even though, according to the 25% rule, I’m not even a proper human.
It’s such a stupid, arbitrary percentage. Your mind or your heart or whatever might only be 7% of your body mass, but it’s a heck of a lot more than 25% of who you are.
I hate the 25% rule. I hate that it’s still raining. I hate the boys who threw me in the fountain in 6th grade and the teacher that let them get off with nothing worse than detention because he was sure they didn’t realize the effect it would have on me—and because I was all right now, wasn’t I? No lasting damage?
I hate my new foster parents, who I’ve never met and who I probably never will meet. I hate that they didn’t call my social worker ahead of time and tell her they didn’t want me. At least then I would be spared the humiliation of lying on a bench in an airport for three hours, waiting for someone who’s never coming to get me.
I hate that my social worker is allowed to just put me on a plane and assume that someone will be waiting for me when I arrive. I hate that I have lived with foster parents who wanted me for the sake of novelty or because they thought they wouldn’t have to feed me. I hate that one foster mom once asked me to “shut down for the day” because she was tired of dealing with me.
I hate a lot of things, if you hadn’t noticed.
I don’t show how much I hate things. Because nobody wants an angry cyborg. Especially an angry cyborg who is angry at humans. When a cyborg gets angry, people get nervous and think the cyborg is about to start shouting “Die, humans!” and attacking them. So people send the cyborg away.
Which is why I try very hard not to act the way I feel.
It’s hard to suppress blood-boiling anger though, much less cover it up with a nice smile. Most days, the best I can do is keep a neutral expression.
And everyone says, “Oh, makes sense, because he’s a robot. That’s why he’s so blank.”
Did I mention that I hate humans?
If water did to normal people what it did to me, I would throw them all in the ocean. I would stand on the shore and watch the sparks fly, and the joints twitch and stiffen, and the systems go haywire.
Sometimes it’s scary how much I want to see it.
The stewardess doesn’t know this. She’s talking quietly with someone a little ways down the hall way, murmuring, “He’s been here for more than three hours. Poor kid.” She wouldn’t call me “poor kid” if she knew I was fantasizing about destroying half the human race.
She wouldn’t call me poor kid if she knew that less than 25% of my body mass is made up of organic matter. Because humans like human children.
Footsteps approach. I push myself up into a sitting position, expecting the stewardess again, but it’s not her. It’s a woman with rain spattered glasses and pony tail that is quickly turning anarchist, loose hair hanging around her face and sticking out at whimsical angles.
“You must be Malachi,” she says.
I just stare at her. It’s been a long day, and the fact that she actually showed up doesn’t mean I’m not angry anymore. I don’t have the energy to be polite.
And I hate humans. Did I say that?
“I’m so sorry we’re late,” she says, apparently oblivious to my robot death glare (because yes, I’m glaring. Trying not to act the way I feel is starting to feel like a waste of everyone’s time). “There was an accident downtown and they had to reroute everything. The traffic was ridiculous.” She glances at her watch with a grimace. “Honestly, I’m so sorry. You must be starving.”
“I don’t eat,” I say, like a jerk. At least I’m not saying ‘Die, human.’
She raises her eyebrows briefly at the lie, then pulls a bag out of her purse. “These should help.”
I turn the package over in my hands. It’s dark chocolate covered blueberries.
I just sort of stare at them like I’m having a systems failure.
Dark chocolate and blueberries.
“I have turmeric here too,” she says, still digging in her purse.
The blueberries could be chance, but turmeric? Normal people don’t carry turmeric around in their purse. Normal people don’t offer turmeric to teenagers when they pick them up at the airport. Because normal teenagers don’t have to be so careful about making sure they’re eating foods that are good for their brains.
And I don’t need her stupid turmeric. I brought my own. But the fact that she knew to bring some makes me freeze up all over again.
“Unfortunately, it’s still raining,” she says, “but my husband is bringing the car around right out front so we won’t have to walk far. Do you think that will be all right?”
I don’t know how I didn’t notice it before, but—all folded up and tucked under one arm—she is holding the biggest umbrella I’ve ever seen.
And that’s the last straw.
Sometimes I’m amazed that I can still cry. I forget that my eyes are real.
I duck my head and lean out so the tears will fall straight down and not run down my face. I bite my lip and stay absolutely silent, but she still sees. Because she’s looking at me. She’s looking at me like I’m more than a measly 12% of a person.
“I know there’s a lot I don’t understand,” she says quietly, kneeling beside me. “There are things I can’t understand, so I won’t pretend that I know exactly how to do this. But I’m going to do my best, and if I mess up, you just let me know, okay?”
She takes the package of chocolate covered blueberries, opens it, and hands it back. This sort of menial assistance shouldn’t be accepted by a normal teenager, much less an angry cyborg teenager, but I don’t protest. I eat a handful of blueberries.
“So what do you say?” she asks. “You want to give us a shot?”
I nod wordlessly.
She smiles. “All right then. Let’s get you home.”
The extent of my writing research is a quick internet search about good “brain foods”. I can do that. But figuring out what you should actually call an airport employee? THAT is taking things too far.
Many thanks to Gradma Jem for the prompt!
What are your opinions on rain? (Unlike Malachi, I adore the stuff.) Have you been writing lately? Have you every written about a cyborg? What’s your crazy fan theory about how Malachi ended up as a cyborg (I came up with a melodramatic idea whilst food-deprived and drowsy, driving home from work today)? Do tell!
5 responses to “One Quirk Later #17–Less than 25%”
Argh!!! I love this kid too!! But also his new foster mom? With her hair sticking everywhere and considering the rain? And bringing brain food? IS MY NEW FAVORITE. (Also, chocolate covered blueberries and turmeric doesn’t seem like that bad of a diet. Hm. Maybe I should become a cyborg.)
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She is pretty great, isn’t she? 🙂 (chocolate covered blueberries are also pretty great, hehe)
[…] you haven’t read this Quirk, then you must go forth and read it at once. Be blessed by this […]
I am acquiring quite the brood of angsty quirk children who have had to be kidnapped, legally adopted, or otherwise snatched from their former looker-afterers, and I am truly SO pleased that that is not necessary here. Dear rain-spattered glasses lady of the anarchist hair and giant umbrella. Dear angry Malachi. I love them. I’m pretty sure this quirk was as good for my grinch heart as chocolate covered blueberries and turmeric are for the brain.
And…have I ever mentioned that your writing is EXCELLENT?? Because it’s excellent. It’s very good. It’s muy bueno. It rolls off the tongue, except one isn’t reading it aloud, so it just FEELS like it’s rolling off the tongue.
This quirk just made me happy.
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I think I was about half way through before I decided to bestow a giant umbrella and blueberries and a dear lady with anarchist hair on Malachi, and I’m so glad I did. My poor characters really deserve some goodness after all the angst I give them. Also I love this lady.
THANK YOU. Really. Thank you.
(This comment just made me happy)
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