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Theonite Chibis by MLWang Theonite Chibis :iconmlwang:MLWang 4 0 The Sword of Kaigen Cover Art by MLWang The Sword of Kaigen Cover Art :iconmlwang:MLWang 1 0
Literature
THEONITE: Planet Adyn - Chapter 1: The Hum
Power means different things to different people. For poets and politicians, words are power. For some, money is power. For most of Earth’s history, weaponry and resources have constituted power. My grandfather always told me—and I believed for many years—that knowledge was power. But the funny thing about power is that no matter what you think it is, or how much you think you have, it’s the people above and all around you who get the final say.
I’m not sure how old I was when I first tried looking in the mirror and telling myself, with a shiver of pride and a warning prickle of something like fear, ‘I am the most powerful person in the world.’ In a way, it was true. My hands and mind could do things no one else’s could, but I was too young then to understand that some power—the kind that really matters—comes from other people. And what good is being faster, or stronger, or smarter than everyone else when it leaves you all alo
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Literature
THEONITE: Planet Adyn - Prologue
September 25, 2005
Dunian Space
Daniel Thundyil leaned forward, drumming his heels against the side of a seat that was still just a little too high for him.
“So Dad, you realize when I said I’d be okay with moving again, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.”
Robin looked up from the control array to offer his son a thin smile. “I know, and I’m sorry to throw you into this on such short notice, but I had no choice.”
“You say that a lot.” Daniel frowned, then pulled his knees up to his chest to rest his chin on them, his feet still tapping absently on the edge of the seat. He hadn’t stopped fidgeting since they left the space center. The silence bothered him.
“Once you’re finished sulking, I think you’ll find this trip to be quite the adventure,” Robin said brightly.
“Right.” A surprise trip with a dad like Robin was always an adventure. It wasn’t the adventure part that bothered Dani
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Joan Messi Sketch (Theonite) by MLWang Joan Messi Sketch (Theonite) :iconmlwang:MLWang 7 0 Kalleyso (Killer 30) by MLWang Kalleyso (Killer 30) :iconmlwang:MLWang 3 0 THEONITE: ORBIT Paperback Cover Art by MLWang THEONITE: ORBIT Paperback Cover Art :iconmlwang:MLWang 1 0 Dunian Flags Guide by MLWang Dunian Flags Guide :iconmlwang:MLWang 0 0 THEONITE: ORBIT Cover Art by MLWang THEONITE: ORBIT Cover Art :iconmlwang:MLWang 0 0 THEONITE: PLANET ADYN Paperbacks by MLWang THEONITE: PLANET ADYN Paperbacks :iconmlwang:MLWang 0 0 THEONITE: PLANET ADYN Cover Art by MLWang THEONITE: PLANET ADYN Cover Art :iconmlwang:MLWang 0 0 Map of Duna by MLWang Map of Duna :iconmlwang:MLWang 0 0 Theonite: Planet Adyn and reference books by MLWang Theonite: Planet Adyn and reference books :iconmlwang:MLWang 0 0 Joan Messi colored sketch by MLWang Joan Messi colored sketch :iconmlwang:MLWang 1 0 Daniel Thundyil colored sketch by MLWang Daniel Thundyil colored sketch :iconmlwang:MLWang 1 0 Daniel Thundyil sketch by MLWang Daniel Thundyil sketch :iconmlwang:MLWang 0 0

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To celebrate finishing the paperback copies of Theonite Book II: Orbit, I will be hosting a book giveaway through this August (2017).

FIRST PLACE winners receive paperback copies of Theonite Book I: Planet Adyn and Book II: Orbit

SECOND PLACE winners receive your choice of a paperback copy of Planet Adyn or Orbit, or PDF copies of both

THIRD PLACE winners receive PDF versions of Planet Adyn and Orbit

ALL ENTRANTS automatically receive a PDF of Planet Adyn for free with the next newsletter.

  ENTER HERE!  

Winners will be announced to the newsletter at the end of August. Nyama to you all!

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MLWang
M. L. Wang
Artist | Literature
United States
This is the official Deviantart account for my young adult book series THEONITE by M. L. Wang. Here you will find Theonite excerpts, cover art, concept sketches, book photos, and more.

"Discovering my powers wasn’t what changed my life.
For thirteen years my powers were my life.
What changed it was the realization that I was not alone."


Joan Messi has spent thirteen lonely years hiding her supernatural abilities from her parents, her classmates, and everyone in her white bread suburban community. However, her little world of secrets is shattered when a pair of strangers arrive from a parallel dimension on the hunt for a nameless criminal. Now, after a lifetime of wondering where her powers came from, Joan might have found the beginnings of an answer.

Read Theonite online (free)
Theonite on Amazon

Subscribe to my newsletter for free art and fiction every month.



Website | Newsletter | Amazon | Goodreads | Tumblr | Pinterest | Society6

Activity


To celebrate finishing the paperback copies of Theonite Book II: Orbit, I will be hosting a book giveaway through this August (2017).

FIRST PLACE winners receive paperback copies of Theonite Book I: Planet Adyn and Book II: Orbit

SECOND PLACE winners receive your choice of a paperback copy of Planet Adyn or Orbit, or PDF copies of both

THIRD PLACE winners receive PDF versions of Planet Adyn and Orbit

ALL ENTRANTS automatically receive a PDF of Planet Adyn for free with the next newsletter.

  ENTER HERE!  

Winners will be announced to the newsletter at the end of August. Nyama to you all!

Theonite Chibis
Just for fun, I made chibis of the characters from my YA sci-fi series, Theonite. In Yammanka form, from right to left:

Kente Ekwenzi with his glass spider earring and standard senkuli facepaint
Joan Messi with the paint and clothing that Daniel chose for her, minus the headwrap she sometimes uses to cover her hair on Dakkabana
Daniel Thundyil in his Disanka style clothing and facepaint
Fikile 'Fiki' Zithathwa with her copper butterfly earring. She changes her facepaint every day and her hairstyle every couple weeks, but this look is one of her favorites.
Matsuda Izumo in his waiter's apron so he looks super extra like a girl. His facepaint is a simplified version of his mother''s family crest (the Tsusano crest, depicting a woodblock wave)

Read Theonite online (free)
Theonite on Amazon

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The Sword of Kaigen Cover Art

THE SWORD OF KAIGEN: A THEONITE WAR STORY
by M. L. Wang

High in the mists of a coastal mountainside, live the most powerful fighters in the world, warriors capable of raising the sea and wielding blades of ice. For hundreds of years, the fighters of the Kusanagi Peninsula have held the Empire’s enemies at bay, earning their snowy spit of land the name ‘The Sword of Kaigen.' 

It has been nearly a century since the swordsmen of Kusanagi beat back Ranga’s wind-wielding armies at the end of the Great War. Since then, the region has fallen on hard times, with most of the fighters and sword-smiths trickling off to the cities in search of better work. Only a handful of practicing swordsmen now remain in Kusanagi’s great families: Lightning Dai of the Yukino clan, the Matsuda brothers, Takashi and Takeru, Masters of the Whispering Blade, and Takeru’s son, Mamoru, who is only fourteen. And, despite the stream of comforting propaganda issuing from the Empire’s capital, it seems that Kaigen’s enemies across the ocean are growing in strength and numbers.

For young Mamoru and the few others with the gall to doubt their Empire, the questions creep closer: What is their government hiding from them? What monsters have begun stirring in the west while the Empire has turned a blind eye? When the winds of war return, will the men of Kusanagi be enough to hold them back? And if they are Kaigen’s sword, whose fingers hold the handle?


Subscribe to the Theonite Newsletter to start reading The Sword of Kaigen for FREE this July


AUTHOR’S NOTE:
The Sword of Kaigen is a cross-section of Dunian history, taking place fourteen years before the events of the Theonite Series, in the Dunian year 5369 (Earth year 1992). It is a standalone story, meaning readers will be able to enjoy it whether or not they are familiar with the other Theonite books. 


RELEASE INFO:
This story will be released first to my newsletter subscribers, in monthly installments, then later on Amazon as a Kindle ebook and paperback. The first chapter will be included in next month’s newsletter. If you want to receive those monthly installments, you can subscribe to my newsletter for free.


Website | Paperback | Kindle | Reviews | Tumblr | Facebook | Pinterest ] 

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Power means different things to different people. For poets and politicians, words are power. For some, money is power. For most of Earth’s history, weaponry and resources have constituted power. My grandfather always told me—and I believed for many years—that knowledge was power. But the funny thing about power is that no matter what you think it is, or how much you think you have, it’s the people above and all around you who get the final say.

I’m not sure how old I was when I first tried looking in the mirror and telling myself, with a shiver of pride and a warning prickle of something like fear, ‘I am the most powerful person in the world.’ In a way, it was true. My hands and mind could do things no one else’s could, but I was too young then to understand that some power—the kind that really matters—comes from other people. And what good is being faster, or stronger, or smarter than everyone else when it leaves you all alone?

Looking back on my childhood, I couldn’t remember anyone ever trying to talk to me about my abilities. What I did remember was sitting on the bench outside the daycare center office while my teacher, Ms. Mitchell, spoke in a low voice to my parents.

“I’m sorry to call the two of you in here,” she said, “but I need to talk to you about Joan.”

“What is it? Is she alright?” Mama asked.

I didn’t know why grown-ups thought I couldn’t hear them if they put a wall between us. I could always hear them.

“She’s not hurt or anything,” Ms. Mitchell said hastily. “Actually just the opposite. I’ve been noticing that she… well… she isn’t quite normal.”

Ms. Mitchell had always been my favorite daycare teacher, and I had thought I was one of her favorite kids. She had never had to meet with my parents about my behavior, so why was she suddenly talking in this cold, hushed tone like I’d done something wrong?

“You two must have noticed…”

“Noticed what?” Papa demanded.

“Joan doesn’t move like other kids. She doesn’t get hurt by the same things. A couple weeks ago, while she was running around, she tripped and fell onto the gravel. She must have skidded four feet, but when she got up, her knees weren’t scraped. It was like nothing had happened at all. Then, a few days ago she got hit square in the head with a big wooden building block and didn’t bruise. She didn’t even blink.”

“Are you trying to say there’s something wrong with our daughter because she doesn’t get hurt?” Papa said in that impatient voice he got when he really just wanted someone to stop talking.

“No—I don’t know, Mr. Messi. After what I saw today, I really don’t know.”

I clutched the edge of the bench until I felt my fingernails digging into the wood. I had only been trying to help. Eva and I had been playing with a toy truck. As we rolled it back and forth, I had pushed it a little too hard and it had rolled past her, right into the little space between the fence and the play shed. Eva had stuck her arm behind the shed to get it, but she couldn’t reach.

“Want my truck!” she shouted in frustration. “Want truck!” She started to cry, and Ms. Mitchell came over to comfort her.

“Okay, Eva,” she said, pulling the three-year-old away from the shed and patting her on the back. “You’re okay. It looks like you’re going to have to find a different toy to play with.” But Eva didn’t stop crying.

“Want truck!” she sobbed, and I felt my tummy twist up in guilt. I hated it when other kids were sad, and it was my fault the truck had gone behind the shed.

“It’s okay, Eva!” I piped up. “I’ll get it!”

Crossing past Eva and Ms. Mitchell, I gripped the edge of the play shed and pulled it away from the fence. It made a nasty grating sound as it dragged across the concrete, but that was nothing compared to the scream that hit my ears a moment later.

Startled, I turned to see Ms. Mitchell staring at me with an expression that didn’t belong on her kind, calm face. She had let go of Eva and both her hands were over her mouth. She looked scared, horrified, like she had just seen a monster.

“I just wanted to get the truck,” I tried to explain, thinking maybe she was upset because I had gone behind the shed without permission. I waited for a moment for her to scold me, to laugh, to tell me she had just been joking. But she didn’t say anything. She just gathered a sniffling Eva in close to her and slowly backed away.

“I-I don’t know how she did it,” Ms. Mitchell was stuttering to my parents. “She’s only four!”

“She eats her vegetables,” Papa said. “I don’t see why this is a reason to call us both in from work.”

“Mr. Messi, I don’t think you understand. That shed weighs over four hundred pounds when it’s empty. It took three workmen to move it into the yard.”

“W-well then it couldn’t have been Joan,” Mama said with a nervous laugh. “Maybe it was the wind. Or—maybe you just weren’t seeing right.”

“The wind? Mrs. Messi, I was right there. Now, I’ve been working with kids for over thirty years, and I’ve seen them do some strange things, but this… this was beyond strange.”

“Alright, this is ridiculous.” I heard the scrape of a chair as my dad stood up. “If you’re just going to waste our time with fantasy stories—”

“Marcel,” Mama said reproachfully, “don’t be rude.”

“No, we don’t have to listen to this nonsense,” Papa snapped. “We’re done here.” As he and Mama came out of the office, I heard him mutter, “I can’t believe I postponed my four-o-clock for this.”

Mama didn’t respond. She just pressed her lips together, looking sad, and said, “Let’s go, Joan,” without looking at me.

“Go on, sweetheart,” Ms. Mitchell said as my parents made their way to the door. “Get your outside clothes from your cubby.”

Ms. Mitchell had always applauded my ability to put my shoes and coat on by myself—apparently it was difficult for most kids my age—but today she didn’t smile, she didn’t congratulate me. She just looked on with an uneasy frown as I tugged my dull rubber boots on over my socks and stood up to get my coat off its hook.

Mama and Papa had gone out ahead of me so they could argue on the other side of the glass door where they thought I couldn’t hear.

“Marcel—”

“Don’t,” Papa cut her off. “Josie, just don’t.”

“But don’t you think this is something we should at least talk about?” Mama’s voice rose in pitch like it always did when she was on the edge of tears.

“There’s nothing to talk about. She’s a normal girl.”

“Ms. Mitchell doesn’t think—”

“Ms. Mitchell is an idiot,” Papa said shortly.

“Then maybe… maybe we should send her to a different daycare?”

“If you want to go to the trouble. It’s your time.”

“It would be nice to have your support—”

“I don’t understand you, Josie!” Papa burst out. “Why do you do this? Why do you have to blow everything out of proportion?” And even without hearing them, I would have been able to see his wild angry gestures. “I’m so sick of your treating every little thing like it’s the end of the… good God, are you crying?” His voice took on an exasperated edge. “You’re not crying.”

When I had my coat on, Ms. Mitchell held the door open for me. I noticed she stood a few steps back from me as I walked through, and she didn’t offer me her usual goodbye hug.

“Alright, Josie, pull yourself together,” Papa dropped his voice to a whisper as I came outside, as though that made any difference.

“I just—what if there’s something really wrong with her?” Mama squeaked. “All that stuff when she was a baby and now this—”

“There is nothing wrong with her,” Papa hissed. “Here, I’ll prove it. Hey, Joan!”

“Marcel—” Mama protested, but he ignored her.

“Open this door,” he said, rapping his knuckles against the sliding side door of his SUV.

“Marcel, don’t do this.”

“Why? What do you think she’s going to do? Rip the door off?” He turned back to me. “Go on, Joan. Open it.”

I hesitated for a moment, looking from Mama to Papa, and then went to the car. Going up on my tippy-toes, I grasped the door-handle in both hands. The steel sang lightly beneath my fingers, tightening my grip, inviting me to pull on it. I was about to slide the door open when my eyes found Mama’s worried face and I stopped.

I remembered the way Ms. Mitchell had looked at me and realized that I couldn’t bear to have Mama look at me that way—with that kind of fear. So I tugged at the door weakly and pretended I couldn’t move it. Mama’s shoulders relaxed in relief, Papa said “There, you see,” and everything went on as normal, but Ms. Mitchell was never the same around me again. She wouldn’t look me in the face when I talked to her. She didn’t hug me anymore.

That day at the daycare, I realized two things. The first was that I was stronger—much stronger—than anyone around me. The second was that I could never let anyone know that. For whatever reason, grown-ups didn’t like my strength. They didn’t want to see it. They didn’t want to talk about it. It scared them. And I didn’t want people to be scared of me. I wanted them to like me.

So at the tender age of four, I began treading lightly, carefully monitoring my every movement to conceal my strength, to be as normal as possible. I taught myself to open doors and pull out chairs as though it took effort. I learned to control my reflexes so that I never made a move that was too fast or forceful. I learned to walk like other people, setting each foot down heavily as though my own weight bore down on me more than it actually did.

By the age of five, I had become an expert at masking my strength and speed. By the age of six, I could fool anyone into thinking I was just an ordinary kid. But as it turned out, my superhuman strength wasn’t the only abnormal thing about me. I was seven years old when the real weirdness reared its head.

Like a lot of girls that age, seven-year-old me loathed boys. Mostly because they thought they were better than me. The whole world acted like boys were better than girls. The superheroes on TV, the great historical figures we learned about in school, the supposed strongest and fastest people in the world were all male—then at recess, the boys at school thought they got to act like I wasn’t good enough to play their games. And how dare they think that when I was stronger and faster than all of them, and their older brothers, and their dads. Of course, none of them actually knew about the super-strength I was so careful to hide, but it made me furious all the same.

So when Tyreese’s mother told him that he and his brothers had to invite me to join their baseball game, I jumped at the chance to show them how dumb they were for trying to exclude me.

“Please can I go, please?” I begged, dancing in circles around Mama as she carried the laundry out to the line.

“You’re not done with your chores yet.”

“Yes, I am.” Truth be told, I had cheated, but I figured there was no harm cleaning at triple speed in my room where no one could see.

“Joan,” Mama sighed, “you know I don’t like you playing with those boys.”

“Why not?” I demanded. “You let me go play at Ryan’s house.”

“I—that—that’s because I know Ryan’s mother.”

“You know Tyreese’s mom. She brought us Christmas cookies.”

I never really understood why Mama didn’t like Tyreese’s family. Every time they were around, she stood weird, and laughed weird, and got all jumpy like they might bite her. Sometimes I wondered if it was because they were the only black family in the neighborhood, but my kindergarten teacher said that was racist and Mama was too nice to be racist, so that couldn’t be it.

Whatever her reasoning, she always had some excuse for why I couldn’t go play with Tyreese and his brothers. “You know how boys like that are,” she would say, or “you want to be careful around those kinds of people,” or “you know those boys are just trouble.”

Today it was the always-ridiculous, “They just play so rough. I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“Please, Mama!” I pressed, knowing I could wear her down if I kept at it. “I’ll wear a helmet,” I said, even though my skull was undoubtedly harder than any protective gear I might put over it.

“But—honey, what about your hands?” Mama said. “You don’t even have a glove.”

“Zander is going to lend me his old one. Please!”

“Alright,” she caved with a worried sigh. “Just be careful.”

“I will!” I promised, already skipping across the yard to meet up with the boys.

I did have to be careful any time I played with other kids, just not for the reasons Mama thought. There was never much chance of me getting hurt, but it was easy to forget how strong I was while caught up in the excitement of a game. I had to be careful to stay in control.

The sun was beating down on the dusty field when we got there. Weeks of dry heat had turned the grass crunchy beneath our shoes. The static whir of cicadas in the trees all but drowned out the boys’ voices as they negotiated positions.

“Stand over here,” Tyreese said, pushing me as far into right field as he could. “If the ball comes to you, just throw it to one of us.”

“Don’t try to tag anyone out yourself,” Zander added. “You’re not fast enough.”

I spent half of that first inning completely ignored, rocking on the balls of my feet in an uncomfortable mixture of nervousness and indignation, jumping every time I thought the ball might be headed in my direction and hating the way the leather glove felt on my hand. It sat thick and heavy around my fingers as they curled in anxiety. When it was finally my team’s turn to bat, I tore the smothering thing off and hurled it to the ground. My hands twitched as I watched each of my teammates step up to bat. By the time my turn came, my nervousness had mounted to a crackling knot of bright white heat at the center of my chest.

Tyreese and one of the other kids from what the older boys were calling ‘Team Loser’ had already struck out. That annoying ten-year-old from the next block over, Mark, was apparently a killer pitcher.

“Don’t screw up, Cootie-face,” Zander sighed glumly as he held the bat out to me.

The bristling knot in my chest flared as I snatched the bat from him and the sound of cicadas seemed to swell. The aluminum prickled in my hands like it was alive as I stepped up to the plate and slung the bat to my shoulder like the baseball players I had seen on TV. Mark, the pitcher, laughed, and the anger crackled from my chest to fill my body. I could feel the metal vibrating in my clenched hands as Mark drew his arm back.

He flung the ball. I swung with all my fury, but I wasn’t prepared for the way the bat threw me off balance, and I ended up staggering in a circle without hitting anything. Mark and the rest of the older boys snickered while pained groans rose from Team Loser.

“I told you we shouldn’t have let a girl on our team,” one of the kids behind me muttered, probably thinking I couldn’t hear him.

“It wasn’t my idea,” Tyreese said as he rolled the ball back to the pitcher’s mound. “My mom said we had to.”

“It’s okay, girly,” Mark laughed, stooping to pick up the ball. “We’ll give you that one free, since you’re a lady.”

I ground my teeth together and the energy in me came roaring right up to my eyeballs. That was when I decided I would hit that ball. I would hit it with all my unstoppable strength, and it would go ‘ping,’ and it would fly so far that no one would ever see it again.

The bat was trembling, but not because my hands were shaking; my anxiety, my indignation, and my anger were all clamoring up from deep inside me, narrowing to a single strain of hard determination that resonated through my arms into the bat. The surge grew louder, stronger, until I couldn’t tell where my body ended and the metal began, until there was nothing in the world except my will to hit that ball.

Mark wound up and threw. My whole universe shrank to the little hunk of cork and cowhide hurtling at me, and I swung.

I missed.

I knew that I missed because there was no ‘ping,’ no ‘thwack,’ no hint of impact. But the next thing anyone knew, the ball was flying back the way it had come.

“Whoa!” Tyreese exclaimed as the ball shot like a bullet past Mark, past the infielders, past the outfielders, zipping over two hundred feet of open grass to plunge into the wooded area behind the park.

The older boys could only stand there and blink in confusion as Team Loser broke into cheers.

“Run, Cootie-face!” they shouted, jumping up and down. “Run, run!”

I didn’t need to run—that ball wasn’t found until a month later when a neighbor kid fished it out of the swamp behind those little woods—but when I felt Tyreese and Zander pushing me toward first base, I stumbled into motion. Careful not to let my jittery legs move too fast, I jogged my way around the field and back around to home base.

“That was the coolest!” Tyreese clapped me on the shoulder.

“What even happened?” another boy asked. “It looked like the bat didn’t even touch the ball!”

“It didn’t,” I said, still flexing my fingers in an effort to work the buzzing twitch out of them.

“What do you mean?” Tyreese laughed.

“I didn’t hit the ball with the bat,” I said. “I hit it with my feelings.”

“What?”

“Well, not just my feelings,” I said to clarify. “I also had to concentrate really hard.”

It was a difficult sensation to describe, almost like my desire to hit the ball had flowed right through my arms, through the bat, and into the air around it to make contact with the ball. It was like, for a split second, I had made the metal and air a part of me. Anyone could do it if they concentrated hard enough—couldn’t they?

“What are you talking about?” Zander asked, scrunching up his face.

“I’m talking about when you use what you feel to move something without touching it. You guys know what I’m talking about, right?”

All I got in response was wall of blank stares. The cicadas had fallen silent.

“See, the bat is metal,” I tried to explain to their uncomprehending faces. “You know how metal sort of—hums when you hold it? And sometimes you can push your feelings through it and use it to move stuff?” It was something I had always been able to do. Why were they all looking at me like I was crazy?

“What’s wrong with her?” one of the boys whispered.

“Girls are weird,” Zander said in a knowing voice. “They always wanna talk about their feelings.”

“I’m not being weird,” I protested angrily. “And I’m not just talking about my feelings, I’m talking about my…” but as soon as I started the sentence, I realized that I didn’t have a word for it. Was there a word for what I had just done?

As I looked around at Tyreese, Zander, and the others, it was obvious that they had no idea what I was talking about. Now that I thought about it, no one ever seemed to know what I was talking about when this came up.

There had been the time Papa had been fishing in his pocket for change and I told him, “You don’t have enough.”

“What?”

“You only have a penny and three dimes,” I said, nodding to the coins I could feel humming through the denim of his pocket. “It’s not enough.”

He looked at me in stunned silence—as though it was somehow strange that I knew what was in his pocket without looking—before getting out his credit card and paying with that instead.

Then there was the time Mama lost her car keys.

“What are you doing?” I had asked, unable to figure out why she was frantically digging through her purse when the keys were calling out from the car floor as clear as little bells. “They’re under your seat.”

“Really?” she said, sticking her hand under the driver’s seat and groping blindly in all the wrong places. “Did you see them fall down there?”

“No, I feel them,” I said. “They’re more to the left. Can’t you feel them?”

Mama had paused then and looked up at me with that tense, alarmed expression that told me I had said something unsettling. I just didn’t know what it was.

“They’re right by your hand,” I said, leaning forward in my booster. “You can’t feel them at all?”

Mama didn’t answer. She had stopped grasping for the keys.

“Here.” I made a pushing motion with my arm, nudging the keys toward her. When they bumped up against her fingertips, she uttered a scream of surprise that made me stop.

“Sorry,” I said, lowering my arm. I wasn’t sure what I was apologizing for. I just knew I had never seen Mama’s eyes so wide.

“You—wh-what do you mean you’re sorry?” She looked at me and I could tell she was scared. “That wasn’t you…?”

I hadn’t known what to say, so I had just shaken my head.

“Hey, Joan?” Tyreese asked, leaning in to peer under my baseball cap at me. “You okay?”

“Yes,” I said, although I wasn’t at all sure I was.

Until then, I had thought maybe my parents couldn’t do what I did because they just weren’t very perceptive or smart, but if Tyreese and the other boys couldn’t do it either, did that mean most people couldn’t do it? Was that why there was no word for it?

“I’m going home,” I said abruptly.

“What?” Tyreese said. “You can’t leave! We just started!”

“I’m sorry.” I turned and made for the sidewalk.

“Let her go,” Zander said. “We don’t need any girls.” And I was too caught up in my thoughts to even get angry at him.

I had always known I was stronger than other people. I had always known I had better eyesight and hearing than everyone else. Could it be that I had an extra sense—an extra ability—that they just didn’t have at all?

Most people, I had noticed, needed to see or touch something to know what it was made of, but I just needed to stand near it. I could walk into a pitch dark room and know the mass, texture, and composition of everything within ten feet of me without reaching out to touch any of it with my hands.

Metals were the most distinct—the most alive—to me, always pulling at my skin, singing their presence wherever I went, demanding my attention. And each metal had its own voice, from the plaintive keening of copper wires to the low drone of the nickels in my piggybank.

There had been one night, as I lay under the covers with my fingers flexing against the sheets, when I found that I could respond to the hum of the steel bedframe underneath my mattress. As my hand opened and closed, I pulled at the metal, bringing it into the control of my fingers, moving it. It wasn’t until I heard the groan and pop of springs that realized I should probably stop before I collapsed the whole bed under me. It hadn’t seemed that weird at the time. If materials like metal could reach out and touch my mind, why shouldn’t my mind be able to reach out and touch them back?

Water was another substance I had always been good at sensing, the richer in minerals the better. Many nights, as I sat in the bath, I had closed my eyes and felt the water, heavy with magnesium particles, stirring against my skin. Playing around a bit, I had found that I could whip up a swirling funnel of water by moving my fingers in circles above the surface, or send a soapy wave rolling across the length of the tub with a sweep of my hand.

One time, I even tried getting some of the bathwater to levitate but quickly found that water was an uncooperative substance, slipperier and less responsive than metal. Getting it to rise out of the tub required not only intense concentration, but also a sort of relaxed steadiness that I couldn’t quite manage. If my fingers tensed up or my focus faltered for a fraction of a second, I would lose my grip, and the water would splash back into the tub. I had given up after only a few tries without it ever occurring to me that other people couldn’t get water to levitate at all.

While moving metal and water was nothing new for me, this business with the baseball was different. It was the first time my influence had extended beyond the familiar hum of the metal to move the air around it. It was also the first time that I realized that other people couldn’t do what I did.

Maybe I should have been alarmed, wary of this strange ability no one else seemed to have. But all I felt was excitement as I covered the distance back to my house in quickening strides, barely resisting the urge to break into a sprint.

“Joan,” Mama said in surprise when I entered the kitchen. “You’re back early. Is everything okay?”

“Yes,” I said, and hurried past her to my room.

“You’re not hurt, are y–”

“Nope.” I shut the door.

Leaning back against the wall, I listened for a moment to make sure Mama wasn’t going to come knocking to pester me some more. When her shuffling footsteps stayed in the kitchen, I rushed to the toy box. With my hands still twitching with energy, I scrambled to pick up the first few action figures I could find. It took me a few tries to stand them up, but I finally got them into neat row on my dresser. Now that I was conscious of this unique ability, I wanted I wanted to test it. I wanted to see exactly what it could do.

Settling myself down in my chair, I stared at the action figures, took a deep breath, and swung my open hand past them as I had swung the bat at the ball.

Nothing happened.

I paused for a moment, rubbing my fingers together, and tried to think back to how I had hit that homerun. The energy hadn’t just come from movement. It had come from emotion. I needed to let what I was feeling—all this excitement, and fascination, and nervousness—overtake me like it had back on the field.

That turned out not to be too difficult. I only had to draw in a few deep breaths before my heart began pounding with excitement and I felt that swell of energy that was so hard to describe—like the shudder of a starting engine, the fits of bubbles at the surface of boiling water, the clamor of a tree filled with cicadas, I swung my hand again and—

“Whoa!” I started as the energy jolted out of me faster, harder than I meant it to. I wasn’t even sure what had happened, but in an instant, my lamp had shot off the bedside table to crash into my bookshelf in a spray of sparks and broken porcelain.

“Oh… oops.” I lowered my hand, shaken. That confirmed it: I could move solid objects with my feelings—but that hadn’t been what I meant to do at all. I was still missing something. Shaking out my hand, I thought back again to the moment I hit that ball. There had been movement, there had been emotion— and what else? What else?

Concentration, I realized, after flexing my fingers for a moment. In the split second before the swing, I had been nervous, I had been angry, but I had channeled all of it into hitting that ball. It wasn’t enough to just whip my feelings into a frenzy, I had to focus them.

Biting my lip, I stared into the painted plastic faces of each of the action figures in turn, telling myself I wanted to knock them down, I needed to knock them down. I swung again and sure enough, a burst of energy shot down my arm and hit the toys, sending them tumbling across the room.

“Yes!” I leapt from my chair to punch the air. “I’m a wizard!”

Just then my bedroom door opened and Papa stuck his head in. “Hey Joan, are you throwing things in here?”

“No.” I said, edging sideways to hide the broken lamp from view. “No, I’m…” I fumbled and then, in a strange moment of curiosity, I decided to tell him the truth, just to see what would happen. “I’m moving my toys without touching them.”

“You mean like with your mind?”

I couldn’t tell if he was serious or not. Mostly he just looked impatient.

“Yes,” I said, rubbing my fingers together nervously. “Like that.”

“So you’re pretending to have telekinesis?” He wasn’t serious. He thought this was all a joke.

“Does it have to be pretend?” I asked quietly.

“What?”

“Do you think—” I swallowed. “Do you think, if I tried really hard, I could make things move with my mind?”

“Yeah, good luck with that,” he snorted.

“What do you mean?”

“Come on, Joan, you’re smarter than that. You know you can’t just move things around with your mind. That kind of thing only happens in cartoons. It’s not possible in real life.”

And I realized that he was right. According to everything I had learned from watching other people interact with the world around them, it was impossible to move something without touching it. I knew just as well as any other kid how the world worked. I had had the same kindergarten science classes as everyone else, grown up in the same reality as everyone else; why was I the only one who never seemed to fit into it?

“You know that, right?” Papa said and for the first time I noticed something like concern creasing his forehead. “You know that stuff’s not possible?” His hand had tightened around the doorknob.

“Yeah, I know,” I said, trying to make my uneasiness sound like annoyance. “I’m just playing pretend.”

“Well, pretend more quietly, okay?” he said. “I’m trying to get some work done.”

“Okay Papa.”

As he left I turned from the door to stare down at my hands, which I knew now could do the ‘impossible.’ Years later, I didn’t remember the day of that baseball game as the day I discovered my powers, I remembered it as the day I discovered that they were something special—and the day I started to explore them.

For the rest of that afternoon, I experimented with moving different things in my room. Using my hands to stir up the air, I could make loose papers dance like fairies. I found some coins in a jar and entertained myself for over an hour making them jump and spin back and forth across my dresser. With some practice I could lift one into the air and—if I focused really hard—get it to float there for a few seconds before it dropped back down to bounce across the carpet.

To my dismay—but not surprise—I couldn’t connect with all the materials in my room as well as I connected with copper pennies. The same way metals sang and pulled at my awareness, there were substances that pushed against it. I identified them better by their silence than their song. Wood muffled my senses, while rubber, plastic, and glass cut out spaces of stark silence.

So, I wasn’t too shocked when all my concentrated efforts to move my eraser only got a feeble twitch out of it. Even though I could fly sheets of loose-leaf all over the room on an air current, the paper itself was slow to respond to my powers. My plastic action figures were also less than cooperative; I could only move them with air, or by latching my powers onto the tiny metal screws holding their joints together.

I would have gone on to test my newfound power on every solitary item in the room if Mama hadn’t come knocking on my door to call me to dinner. I spent the meal in a daze, nearly forgetting to eat as my fingers fidgeted, feeling out everything around me, trying to decide how easy it would be to latch onto it with my powers and move it.

“Joan?” Mama’s voice said, breaking my focus. “Are you okay?”

“What?” My eyes blinked open. “Yeah.” And I realized that I had closed my eyes in concentration.

“Did you just fall asleep?” Papa asked.

“Um, yeah,” I said, even though I had never felt more awake in my life.

“Oh sweetie,” Mama said. “I knew you shouldn’t have gone out to play with those boys. It was probably too much. After dinner, we’ll get you into bed, okay?”

“Okay.”

It was only later, after Mama had helped me into my pajamas and tucked me in, that it occurred to me to wonder why I hadn’t told my parents about my powers. Sure, I had mentioned what I was doing to Papa, but only as an experiment. The strange thing was that it had never even crossed my mind to tell either him or Mama for real. I was so used to hiding my strength from them, my first impulse was to conceal anything important.

I still remembered that day at daycare with Ms. Mitchell; I knew how they reacted to anything out of the ordinary. Papa would do his best to ignore it by running away to the office. Mama would try to cover it up, or worse, get it fixed. Neither of them would understand that this wasn’t something that needed to be fixed. It was part of me. And I wanted to explore it without any parents, or teachers, or doctors sticking their fingers into it.

I decided then, staring up into the darkness with the world humming all around me, that I would keep this power hidden. I would learn to use it in secret, behind the closed door of my bedroom, where it could be mine, just mine, and no one could ruin it with their worry, or judgment, or fear.



........



There was no word for my ability to sense and move the things around me, so I came up with my own. I called it the Hum, because that was what it felt like—all the substances of the world humming to me at their different frequencies, and responding when I hummed back just right.

For those first few months of practice, using my powers went a little like flying in a dream. Sometimes it worked beautifully, sometimes I could flail until I was blue in the face and barely move anything. There were days I wore myself ragged grasping at ropes of water only to have them slide through my fingers onto the floor, or heaved until I was light-headed without working up a decent air current. But there were also days—when my head was clear and my heart was in it—that I could lift my hands and conduct a room full of Humming objects like my own personal orchestra.

For years, that daily practice time in my room was the one thing that kept me sane and happy. But under the comforting rush of the Hum, there was always a gnawing undercurrent of questions. What were these powers? How had they come to be part of me? Was there anyone else out there like me? Or was I the only one? Those questions wore at me, eating at my insides every night as I lay awake, creating a cold, insatiable hollow at the center of my being.

I spent hours every day flipping through books, my eyes scanning hungrily, raking every paragraph for evidence of people who could do what I could. Of course, human history and myth was teeming with gods, saints, and sorcerers with supernatural abilities, but there was nothing that could explain me, nothing to fill the hollow. After years of reading, and thinking, and theorizing, all I had were the gnawing teeth of more questions. Could I be a regular human who had been exposed to radiation as a child like the superheroes in my comics and cartoons? Was I the result of some kind of secret experiment? Was I a wizard? A demigod? An alien? Had I somehow sold my soul to the Devil?

That last question shook me the most—not that I thought it was possible. I didn’t even believe there was a devil. Mama had made a weak effort to raise me Catholic, but like my father, I had never bought the whole God thing (it was one of the few things on which the two of us could agree). To me, God seemed like a refuge people like Mama made up for themselves when they weren’t strong enough to deal with reality.

But for me there was no refuge. My Sunday school teachers had made it abundantly clear that supernatural abilities like mine were not welcome in God’s world. And if God was going to reject me for the one thing that made me happy, I was going to reject him right back. People said religion was supposed to inspire kindness and acceptance; all I ever saw it inspire was intolerance and fear—and people were so fearful. Fortunately for me, I didn’t need other people. I certainly didn’t need a god. I was not like Mama.

I was not weak.

I was the most powerful person in the world.

Discovering my powers wasn’t what changed my life. For thirteen years, my powers were my life. What changed it was the discovery that I was not the only one.
September 25, 2005

Dunian Space



Daniel Thundyil leaned forward, drumming his heels against the side of a seat that was still just a little too high for him.

“So Dad, you realize when I said I’d be okay with moving again, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.”

Robin looked up from the control array to offer his son a thin smile. “I know, and I’m sorry to throw you into this on such short notice, but I had no choice.”

“You say that a lot.” Daniel frowned, then pulled his knees up to his chest to rest his chin on them, his feet still tapping absently on the edge of the seat. He hadn’t stopped fidgeting since they left the space center. The silence bothered him.

“Once you’re finished sulking, I think you’ll find this trip to be quite the adventure,” Robin said brightly.

“Right.” A surprise trip with a dad like Robin was always an adventure. It wasn’t the adventure part that bothered Daniel. Hard as it was to change schools, and languages, and whole identities every few months, Daniel enjoyed this life. He just liked to know which of his dad’s psychopathic enemies they were uprooting themselves to chase down.

“It’s not every day you get to cross into a parallel dimension,” Robin said. “Aren’t you at least a little excited?”

“I guess.”

“Nervous?”

“I guess.”

Robin sank back in his seat, heaving a sigh that got lost in the muffling hum of the pod’s engines. Just a year ago, he would have been able to put a smile back on that face with a joke, or a song, or some half-made-up story about the constellations shifting all around them, but Daniel was getting to that dreaded age where kids are impossible to talk to. Robin had to marvel at how quickly his son had grown up. It didn’t seem all that long ago that he had been the moody adolescent with too much energy and not enough direction. Their custom-made vessel might have allowed them to leap across space and dimensions, but Robin and his growing son remained as firmly bound to time as any of their ancestors.

“What’s it like, you think?” Daniel said finally, leaning his head against the glass to gaze at the infinity of stars outside. “This other planet—dimension—thing.” He still didn’t seem to believe the idea even as he said it. Robin hardly believed it himself.

“Not unlike home, I would imagine,” Robin replied.

“What makes you say that?” Daniel twisted around in his seat to raise an eyebrow at his father. “Your guy told me everything was all backwards and upside-down there. He said the people there weren’t, you know, like us.”

“They’re human,” Robin said, “and so are we. What else is there to know?”

Daniel rolled his eyes. “That’s not what I meant.”

“There will be cultural differences from what we’re used to. We won’t know exactly what those are until we get there, but we’ll figure it out. Don’t worry.”

“I never said I was worried. That’s you.”

“True.” And Robin didn’t know what to do but laugh because Daniel had no idea how true it was. “You got me.”

“But just because I’m not worried doesn’t mean I get why we’re doing this,” Daniel said. “I’m still waiting for you to explain.”

“I’ve told you,” Robin said. “There is something I need to find, urgently, before it falls into the wrong hands.”

“Yeah, I know. You’ve said that like five times, but what? What is this thing you need to find so bad?”

“I’m not sure yet.”

“Is that even true?” Daniel asked. “Or do you just not want to tell me?”

“I have some theories—”

“That you can’t tell me, right?”

Robin gave his son an apologetic smile.

“If we’re leaving our planet on a theory, it must be for something serious,” Daniel said. “So, this killer you won’t tell me anything about must be bad news, huh?”

“Daniel, I—”

“I know, I know,” Daniel scowled, slumping down in his seat to put his feet against the glass above the control panel. “The less I know, the safer I am.”

For a few moments Daniel sat crunched down in his seat, tapping an irritated rhythm on the glass with the soles of his shoes.

“I’m thirteen, Dad. Would it kill you to have me in the loop every once in a while?”

Robin didn’t answer.

“Come on,” Daniel begged, even though he knew it was pointless. “Could you at least give a name?”

“Killer 31, code name—”

“Code name: Mohan. I know. Everyone’s really impressed with the cute little nicknames you give your enemies. I meant his real name.”

Robin shook his head. “You wouldn’t know him.”

“Him?” Daniel repeated. “Okay, so it’s a guy. Is he from our city?”

“Let me rephrase,” Robin said calmly. “You don’t want to know him.”

“Yes, I do. If I’m going to take over for you some day—”

“You’re going to have to hold that thought,” Robin said, drumming the final measures of code into the control panel.

Daniel had just opened his mouth to protest when a violent shudder ran through the pod and the air around them thrummed with some unseen force.

“Whoa!” Daniel grabbed the arm of his seat in alarm. “What’s going on?”

“We’re about to cross over,” Robin said, his eyes fixed ahead.

“What—” Daniel began, but the rest of the words issuing from his mouth turned into an unintelligible gargle as the walls of the pod warped and stretched before him. A plunging sensation in the pit of Daniel’s stomach caused him to double over and realize that he had only one knee and upwards of a hundred knuckles. He opened his mouth to scream only to find that his lungs had collapsed into his spleen, while his eardrums and elbows broke into a billion bright white grains of sand.

“Dad!” he cried out, but his voice had turned to sand as well. The glass dome of the pod crumbled to mix with the disintegrating stars, the whiteness swirled up around him, and the world disappeared.

For some time—it could have been a few seconds or a few weeks for all they knew—neither father nor son saw, heard, or felt a thing. Then, all at once, both slid off the edge of limbo and back into their bodies.

Daniel let out an undignified yelp as reality deposited him back into his seat beside his father. Unable to work his limbs, he collapsed into a trembling lump of jelly, his breath coming in short, shaking gasps.

Robin closed his eyes and took a single breath to calm his own hammering heart before turning to put a hand on his son’s shoulder. “Alright there, young man?” he asked mildly. “All of you make it through?”

Daniel could only gibber a stream of breathless nonsense, his eyes still fixed sightlessly on the pod glass opposite him.

“Let’s see…” Robin patted Daniel’s knee. “Your legs are here. Hands…” He gently uncurled one of his son’s clenched fists. “Here. Face…” He turned Daniel’s face toward him to look into those eyes that so resembled his own. “Here.”

When Daniel’s stunned gaze locked with his father’s stern, steady one, Robin saw him blink back into consciousness.

“O-okay, okay!” Daniel stumbled into his voice as though lurching out of a dream. “I’m fine!” He swatted his father’s hand away. “I’m fine!”

“Attitude.” Robin smiled. “Here.”

“Oh—” Daniel gulped as he readjusted himself in his seat, still shaking. “Th-that was—”

“An adventure, no?”

“Sure,” Daniel let out an exasperated laugh. He didn’t think he would ever figure out how his father handled every crazy turn of their lives with such unwavering calm. It didn’t seem fair.

“S-so, that’s it?” Daniel asked, laying his spinning head back to stare at the pod’s ceiling. “That’s really it? We just crossed over into the parallel dimension?”

“It would seem so,” said Robin. “We’re among the first—possibly the very first—to do so. Think of it Daniel, no one else in the universe has experienced the miracle of physics and technology we did just now.”

“Yeah, hooray,” Daniel said, putting a hand to his head to massage the dizziness out of it. “Who wouldn’t want to feel like they just got squeezed through a tiny straw and blown into a million pieces? Seriously, if you’d told me we were going to have to—what?” he snapped at Robin, who had begun to laugh.

“Just you. I don’t think I know any other kid so used to this weirdness that they could find a way to be annoyed by inter-dimensional space travel. You’d laugh at you too if you weren’t so busy being mad at me.” Before his son got the chance to retort, Robin pointed out the window. “Now take a look at that.”

“What?”

Turning, Daniel followed his father’s gaze and felt a gasp escape him. Even after a dozen trips in space, the sight of a planet up close was still breathtaking.

“Is that it?” he asked softly.

“Yes.” Robin’s voice had also grown hushed with wonder. He leaned over Daniel to put a hand on the glass. “Isn’t it stunning, the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?”

Daniel made a thoughtful noise, cocking his head to get a better angle on the familiar blue-green sphere outside the window. “I was expecting it to be, I don’t know, purple or something, but it’s not. It looks just like home.”

“Doesn’t it?” Robin marveled, his eyes still fixed on the cloud-shrouded orb on the other side of the glass, the only planet in its little solar system capable of sustaining life. “Who would have thought that in between the fibers of our universe, there was a near carbon copy of home?”

As much as the sight filled Robin with wonder, it made him sad. He didn’t know why. It just did.

“What did you say its name was again?” Daniel asked.

“The few scientists who know of its existence refer to it as Duna Fune or Planet Adyn, but I’m told the native people of this dimension have a different name for it.”

“Yeah? What do they call it?”

“Earth.”

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