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When Sparks Fly

     Liam heaved a sigh, twirling his pen over his fingers. The many papers and books spread over the surface of the table had begun to blur over the many hours Liam had spent studying them. Finishing a university degree had turned out to be more boring than he thought. He continued twirling the pen, mind blank, eyes following the thin, feathery marks that travelled from beneath his sleeve to the tips of his fingers.

     As a boy he’d had the unfortunate experience of being struck by lightning. The scars splayed across his chest, and down his right arm. It looked as though every single nerve was visible and a bright livid red, almost like wiry, pale red seaweed growing over him. It became who he was, that guy who had been struck by lightning that one time.

The door creaked as his father stuck his head into the room.

     “You okay?” Liam yawned and nodded.

     “Uh-huh.” His father smiled.

     “You’re tired Liam,” he came in, sitting next to him. “Why don’t you go lie down for a bit?” Liam yawned again plonking his chin on the book before him.

     “Got to finish this. Due soon.”

     “You’re practically asleep already. Just twenty minutes and then you can get right back to it.”

     “Mmmmhmmm.” His father reached out and patted him on the shoulder.

     “Alright.” He stood and walked from the room. Liam groaned, he really should lie down, the words on the pages were staring to run together. In fact, he couldn’t remember a majority of what he’d written in the last half an hour. His eyes drooped. Five minutes. Five minutes to rest his eyes and then back to work. He rested his cheek on a book, humming as he relaxed.

     Pain exploded in every inch of his body. At first, he thought he had been struck by lightning again, but no this was much, much worse. It just kept going. He ceased to think as even that seemed to hurt. It seared through every inch of him, wrenching, twisting, agony that seemed to be pulling every atom of his body apart. Every seemed to be burning, it hurt to even form thought. He wanted to pass out, to die, anything.

     “Liam! Liam!” a hand was shaking him sharply. The pain had vanished, quite completely, he didn’t even feel tired anymore. “Liam!” Opening his eyes he saw his father was peering down at him. It seemed he’d slid off his chair and onto the floor.

     “I…I’m alright.”

 

     “Liam you were screaming. Lying here on the floor and screaming, and now suddenly you’re alright?”

 

     “Uh…yeah…I think?” he pushed himself up, frowning at the sensation or rather the sudden lack of. “I really am you know.” His father grunted, reaching out to help him up. As his hand made contact with Liam’s arm there was an audible CRACK! It was as if the spot lit up, crackling energy speeding to meet his father’s hand. He heard a yelp as his father snapped his hand away and was sent  sprawling across the floor.

     “Dad!” Liam reached out, then froze. The scars on his hand…were alight, sparking as if alive with a long dead charge. “I…I don’t…this doesn’t…” the flickering light died as he watched fading back into the spidery scars he was so used to.

“Liam?” His father was staring at him, shaking his hand, the skin red and shiny as if he’d clamped hands on a boiling kettle.

“I don’t understand.” They both stared.

     “It was…it was like,” his father frowned, trying to find the words. “Like static, you know, when you touch someone but…but.” Together they looked at Liam’s scarred hand.

     “I don’t understand.”

***

 

     Liam refused to touch anyone else all day, but soon realised that that didn’t exactly solve the problem. Sparks flew when he attempted to open the microwave, in fact he was pretty sure he had broken it. Lights would short out when he turned them on. All he had to do was put his hand near his phone and it would shudder like an angry animal.

     Electricity had almost killed him once after that it was supposed to leave him alone. That was the deal. Surely this didn’t normally happen to people struck by lightning.

     Ignoring any attempts to speak to him, Liam had shut himself in his room. Then realising he couldn’t go near anything electric he huddled under the covers and sulked.

***

 

     He awoke to a loud knocking coming from downstairs. Liam peered at the curtains. Daylight peeking through the gaps between them. A new day. Hopefully a better one. Cautiously he reached a hand toward his bedside lamp. The lightbulb began to flicker and hum even though it was still turned off at the plug.

     “Well,” he sighed “worth a try.” Muffled voices came from the front door, Liam strained to hear what was being said. Something about the military? And gifts? Then he jumped when he heard his own name. Sliding silently from under the covers he tiptoed onto the landing and crouched, out of sight, at the top of the stairs listening with all his might.

     “What do you want with him?” His father’s voice.

     “We simply want to help him. We’re aware that he has come into certain…abilities recently. I can explain those for him.” A woman, unfamiliar, with a cool tone like an Alexa or a Google Home.

     “Maybe he doesn’t want or need your help.”

     “Maybe. But don’t you think we should speak to him about that? He is an adult, a young one, but an adult all the same.” It seemed his dad couldn’t argue with that. Next second Liam could hear footfalls on the stairs. As quietly as he could he scampered back to his room and threw himself under the covers. The door opened.

     “Liam?” Liam groaned as if being awoken from a deep slumber and poked his head out.

     “Uh huh?”

     “There’s someone here for you.” He bit his lip looking slightly anxious.

     “What sort of someone?” Liam asked as his dad shifted his weight from foot to foot.

     “Well, a soldier. She says she knows a bit about your recent…er…your thing yesterday.” Liam considered it. Of course, he could say no, that he didn’t want to but that simply wasn’t true. He wanted to know, but he doubted this soldier was simply going to tell him what everything and leave, never to be seen again. No, he was going to be roped into something; he was sure of it.

     “Okay, I’ll be there in a moment.” Liam rolled out of bed and started looking for socks.

     “Right.” His dad sounded even more hesitant that he was. Liam didn’t even bother getting properly dressed; if this soldier was going to come calling on him in his house then he wasn’t going to get dressy for her. Shrugging a jacket over his pyjama top he made his way downstairs.

     She was still stood in the hallway, back straight and stiff, standing to attention in front of a boy in his pyjamas.

 

     “Mr. Hayes I presume?” He nodded. “I understand that you have come into certain unique abilities in the last twenty-four hours, yes?” Folding his arms, he narrowed his eyes and didn’t answer. How did she know? She nodded, answering her own question. “Did you happen to catch the broadcast made by the prime minister yesterday afternoon?”

 

     “I was busy.”

     “Yes, of course.” A ghost of a smile played across her thin lips. “Mr. Hayes allow me to tell you about the Donatus programme.”

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