In the corner of the room, sat Cheryl Shoemaker upright on a bed. Cloey knew the woman personally now, since the time she’d saved her life. In the back of her mind, the scene replayed to her vividly. There was a rush of people headed toward the carousel and they had run over this woman, whose face was almost unrecognizable when the ambulance came. Cloey cut herself and dripped her blood on the woman’s wound. One drop is all it took and she instantly grew new bones and a featureless face. It was as though the woman had been reborn with new skin. Luckily, the news vans had been separated by her peers, those who were still considered heroes in those times or Cloey would be in the business of curing people and not in the business of being a nurse. The jobs were similar but Cloey had the option of who to cure, instead of being bombarded with a line.
Cheryl was forty years old now and still a patient at the hospital. Unfortunately, Cloey’s curse couldn’t cure insanity. As it turns out, Cheryl was among those trying to get a closer look, so they could attack her. Who knew that would happen? People reacted strangely to sudden revelations, out of fear, Cloey guessed. Today, she smiled at the woman.
“Hello, deary,” Cheryl said, smiling at her. She showed significant signs of sanity but that wasn’t the problem with Cheryl.
“And who are we today, miss?” Cloey asked her, sitting on a chair by the beds. As a nurse, the administration had asked Cloey to take care of Cheryl personally. All she needed to do was look in on her from time to time, as Cheryl was well-guarded. Men were by her door in blue uniforms. It was something ordered by the woman’s husband, who was probably with another woman now. Cloey had met the man, brown wavy hair, always in a black suit and with a calm attitude. The sort of person to come out of the wrong page of a well-dressed man’s magazine.
“You always ask me that. It’s me, Cheryl,” Cheryl said.
The problem was that Cloey had spoken to the real Cheryl very few times. Often, Cheryl was Suzie Q., the fastest female gun in the west or Norma Kim, a spy for the secret service, or Laura Simpson, a beggar from Brooklyn, Jane Saenz, who won an award for breakthrough psychotherapy on adults. She could be any of a myriad of different women. Cloey guessed that she only knew of a few of them but those where she was someone famous really stuck out to her. They made Cloey laugh sometimes. One time she found one of the guards trying to fight her and she saw the forty-year-old woman get up from her bed and do a backwards somersault, flip kicking the man on the chin. Finally, the other guard simply taser-ed her. When Cheryl came to, she was another woman. It was amazing to see it.
“Oh, good,” Cloey said, blinking at her, “I wanted to see you again.”
“Yes, I know,” Cheryl said, “And what does my hero want to ask me now?”
“Do you remember what I asked you last time?” Cloey didn’t remember herself. There had been too many other Cheryls in between.
“You asked me about my daughter.”
“Yes,” Cloey said, “And what happened to her?”
“Recently, she’s been in some weird place,” Cheryl said, sighing, “But I can’t tell where she is, really.”
“You could tell where she was before?”
“Oh, yes. I used to have a talent like those people on television.”
“Oh, really?” Cloey asked, now sincerely interested.
Yet, a second later, she saw Pat showing the security guards a badge, his old nurse badge. Pat no longer worked in the nursing business. He had lost a lot faith in people since his talent for healing had been taken away and since he knew what they would do to him if they knew who he was. Cloey was there when the carousel fell sideways, creating a dust cloud that covered their escape. The police came almost instantly, as though it were planned. Cloey definitely had not expected that.
“Not now, Pat,” Cloey said.
Pat came in and dumped a newspaper on a table. “Is this your doing?”
“Wha–? Oh, wow,” Cloey said, picking up the newspaper. The headline read, “Two dangerous men escape from prison” and under it were the pictures of two confused-looking Japanese characters. Cloey smiled.
“Now I have to go fix this with the others,” Pat said, “You should have told me you were doing this.”
“I made it clear,” Cloey said, “But I didn’t do this, anyway. I gave up on the plan when you did.”
“This wasn’t you?”
Cloey shook her head, “Did you even read the story? It says the jail cells didn’t even open. How do I even do that?”
“I figured you had more help,” Pat said, and calmed down, “But if it wasn’t you, then who did this?”
“Some good person perhaps?”
Pat sighed. Then vanished.
He had been an illusion this whole time! Of course. He’d never risk the real him coming here. That new talent of his was more dangerous than he thought. The newspaper went with him. He couldn’t really make her carry something real as an illusion, that would have been an interesting talent.
Cheryl had heard all this but had remained silent. Cloey turned back to her, “Sorry about that. It’s my uncle. He worries.”
“I understand,” Cloey said, “So what are you going to do about that?”
The woman had asked it so of a sudden that Cloey had to blink to understand. Then, she looked out the window. They were on the third floor of the building. Ever since Cheryl’s last escape attempt, they had moved her up a floor. From here, it was harder to escape and it they had a nicer view of the city, too. Cloey had come up to see Cheryl for a good talk to forget about her troubles. She had been so worried about Shuyin and Tisu but now they were free. Where had they gone? Had Shuyin regained his ability to teleport?
“I must go,” Cloey said, quietly, brushing past Cheryl’s bed.
Then, her wrist couldn’t move. It was being held by Cheryl’s hand. “Look again, dear,” Cheryl insisted. She turned to look out the window. Nothing was out there, except the luxurious view of the city buildings. She saw the big B building, a large part of the cities financial district and the metro train pass by and people going from place to place, shopping. Nothing seemed out of order. It was downtown, Los Angeles. People lived differently here than in other places. It was all about the quick buck, getting to work on time and being where they had to be before a certain time. Cloey’s life wasn’t any different. She had taken a second job at a coffee shop, just to pay for college and her apartment, now that financial aid refused to pay her anything after finding out who her father was.
“What’s wrong?” Cloey asked, looking worried. The woman wouldn’t let go of her wrist.
“Take me with you.”
“Oh, Cheryl, I can’t.”
“But didn’t you see it?”
“See what?” Cloey asked. Had the real Cheryl gone crazy?
“Look up,” Cheryl said.
Cloey looked out the window again. It was sunny but this time she looked up at the sky. A second later, she spotted a dark gray cloud, coming toward the city. Was it real? A storm in Los Angeles at this time of year? Well, the city had weird climate changes. Still, a storm at this time of year would be abnormal to say the least.
“Wow,” Cloey said, “It’s going to rain soon.”
“At the time of the eclipse,” Cheryl said, “And we must flee.”
“Us,” Cheryl said, “With the talent.”
Cloey turned to her with a renewed admiration. The girl knew about her ability? Why had Cheryl never mentioned it before? Perhaps, she knew a little something about the importance of keeping secrets, unlike Cloey herself who had to learn the hard way.
Cheryl’s own sickness could be considered an ability, if Cheryl had any sane control of it but Cheryl didn’t. She would turn into several different women every day. It didn’t look like she had any real control of it.
“I have to go,” Cloey said, quietly, now scared of the woman with unexpectedly strong arms.
“Oh,” Cheryl said, her voice changing, “What you fail to notice, is that you don’t have a choice.”