There was a convenience store on the corner of Seventh Street in District Eleven. The temperatures had gone down today, and the wind had scattered a few raindrops across the pavement and the passersby.
The store bell rang, and the convenience store owner watched the newest customer come in. He appeared to be a young man, not quite in his twenties, wearing a gray windbreaker that was splotched with rain, wisps of white hair sticking out from underneath his white knitted hat. His gray eyes darted around the store and found the snack section. He walked over and pulled a hand out of his pocket to inspect a pack of instant ramen.
There had been a steady flow of people all day, and the store owner soon turned his attention away and to other customers. The young man filled up a basket of snacks before heading to the checkout.
“Your total will be…”
“Ah, I don’t have that kind of money…”
“You sure, kid?”
The young man reached into his pocket for his wallet, opened it and looked at it. “Yeah, sorry…”
“Could I see your ID?”
“Yeah, just a sec.” The young man pulled out his ID, then held it up next to his face.
When the store owner glanced to the young man’s face to confirm, something strange happened, like a light turning on in his eyes. Was that a flash of purple…?
“Thank you for shopping, have a nice day.”
Dema took his plastic bag and left the store, grinning inside.
“Well, that was almost too easy…”
Maybe he should’ve taken some money from somebody…but that would have left more evidence. No, he had to stay as clear as possible right now. After all, he wasn’t exactly off the grid…
He rubbed the back of his neck, feeling it bare after so long. Well, he was glad to be gone with that now. Now, he felt truly free.
“It’s a nice day…”
He looked up at the sky, but right then a car screeched to a stop just a few feet from him. “You crazy, kid?” the driver cried, honking the horn. “Watch where you’re going!”
“Oh…sorry.” Dema gave a thin smile before crossing to the other side.
The image of a car flashed before him, and the red of blood…
He was startled, and bumped into a black coat. He looked up, seeing a pale man looking down at him. “Ah, sorry…”
“No worries,” the man replied, before stepping away and going down the sidewalk.
Dema rubbed the back of his neck again, walking in the other direction, the plastic bag swinging from his fingers. He should try to stay away from the public; after all, his hair was still very distinct, and someone his age should be in school instead of loitering on the streets.
At least he had food now. He had been quite hungry for the past couple of days.
He passed by a flower-seller with brightly colored hair, and she offered him a bunch of flowers. “Carnations?” she asked.
“Oh…not today, thank you.” He tried to make his way on.
“No? Not even one for your girlfriend?”
“I don’t…have a girlfriend…”
“Not even someone that you like? That’s sad, kid. Here, take one for the heck of it.” She passed him a purple blossom. “Here. A carnation.”
“Oh…” He sniffed it, then smiled at her. “Thanks, miss.”
“My name’s Lonny.” She smiled at him brightly.
“Oh…nice to meet you, Lonny.” No, he wasn’t going to give his name. Not yet. Not right now. So even if it seemed rude, he left.
He was staying in the basement of an apartment complex. He didn’t want to hang around the old places where he had been. If he was going off the grid, then he was going off the grid. So he had gone to the district farthest from his old one. Getting into the apartment building had been easy enough, with his ability. No one questioned him staying there. For all they knew, he had always been there. Enough said. They didn’t bother him, either.
He could have gotten himself a room, but he didn’t want to bother living with other people. The more people there were, the more risky it was. So he settled down on his mattress under the stairs by the bicycles and opened up his plastic bag, pulling out a cup of ramen.
As he waited for the water to boil in the electric kettle, he removed his hat and placed the flower on top of it. He should find some water to put it in later…
He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror on the wall. Juvie had turned most of what was left of the black streaks in his hair to white. Contact lenses could hide the purple in his eyes. He was growing out a mullet to cover the back of his neck. Would anyone recognize him as the old Dema? Probably not. It wasn’t like he made any friends that would remember him. And even if someone recognized him, he could just as easily wipe their mind.
After pouring the hot water into his cup, he snapped apart a pair of chopsticks and stirred the flavorings in. He liked spicy things.
As he slurped his ramen, his eyes fell on the flower once again. Maybe he could press it in a book or something. He could probably go to the library and get one. It had been a while since he had read anything.
He remembered when he had been younger, and had been first developing this power. As one of the many gifted in this world, his parents had opted to send him to a special school for those with abilities. There, he was taught that with his ability, he should use it as minimally as possible, unless in a dangerous situation, because it intruded upon the free will and rights of others. Okay, sure, he had agreed. Even if it was boring.
Why didn’t anyone tell him his ability was so convenient? He laughed; he should have let loose a lot sooner. If he had the brains he could go where he wanted, get what he wanted. Too bad he was never at the top of his class. At least he had time to plan now.
But when he pulled out his notebook and pen, nothing came. Nothing that he wanted to do, nowhere which he wanted to go. He only knew of Ukiyo, of school, of prison. No one had told him about the cities of shining lights or of sights that looked like they belonged in another realm. He was an ignorant boy in a large and dirty city, sleeping in the basement of one of the tens of thousands of apartments.
He rubbed the back of his neck once more. Ah, the police would have noted his disappearance by now, and probably had dispatched people on his trail…
Things should start to get interesting now.