Meet Molly Jafferies, a neurotic Warrior Parapsychologist from a little university town in Southeast Georgia. She's the character to hijacted my to-write list andI've been writing her instead of finishing my steampunk YA. Shhhh...
Here's a little snippit. Enjoy. Happy Friday!
I Never Asked to be a Hero
© 2009 Suzanne Lazear
I stood in the still-smoking rubble of what was left of the federal building, death, despair, and anguish swirling around me. A police officer in rescue gear eyed me. Perhaps it was because I was a civilian in the middle of a crime scene bustling with rescue personnel, law-enforcement, National Guard, and dead bodies. Maybe it was Jesse, who lurked a few feet away watching me like I was an expensive puppy that might run away—or get stolen. Maybe it was because I was wearing slacks, a turtleneck, and gloves despite the stifling July heat and carrying a carved wooden staff.
Maybe it was because I was a freak.
“Anything else, ma’am?” The officer was trying to be patient, to be tolerant. After all, with my help we’d already dug more survivors out of the rubble than ever expected.
Closing my eyes, I focused. Already, I heard, felt, and saw things no one else did. But I could open up part of myself--the one that got harder to tuck away each time I used it especially when I did things like this—and hear, feel, and see even more.
“There.” I nodded towards what once was a corner, part of the door still there.
The officer cocked his head. “We already searched there with the dogs, ma’am.”
“I know.” Eyes still shut, the voice of both the living and the dead reached out to me, pleading, wanting. So desperate were their cries. But the pleas came with a price and selfishly I wanted to hang on to what little sanity I had left.
Not that I ever could truly shut all the voices out. Not anymore.
The officer did not move or signal any of the many other rescue personnel swarming the scene. Most of the live ones had been found. Now they were looking for the dead. Fortunately, I didn’t need to help them on that one.
“Search again, Officer. If Molly says to search there, you should search. Her accuracy is top-notch.” Jesse’s voice startled me. He was the strong, silent type, but not in an Alpha Hero way, more like a Bad Henchmen way. He was my “handler”—a government assigned goon to make sure that I wasn’t ill used—or ran away—when on one of these “humanitarian missions.”
Why did I sign up for this again?
Oh wait. I didn’t.
Every so often Jesse just showed up with a job for me. If I refused, I woke up in a white van on the way there. They told me I was making a difference. Serving my country. Using my gifts to help people. I found lost children. Reunited families. Unburied survivors. Saved the unsavable.
I hated every moment of these “humanitarian missions.”
I had no idea why.
I didn’t want to know why either.
“Under the door.” My voice was soft. I could hear the children crying. But I was so exhausted that no longer could I tell if they were alive or dead.
“What?” The officer blinked. I didn’t know his name, even though he’d told me. I didn’t want to know. I didn’t care. I just wanted to find everyone so I could go home.
When I was home the voices stopped.
Taking a deep breath, I tried to shut them out long enough to discern their location. “Under the door. They are underground? A basement? The children are trapped and crying.” And getting louder by the moment. Why were they so loud? But then, I was tired. We’d been at this non-stop for a day and a half. For me it didn’t matter if it was light or dark and for the survivors trapped in the rubble, time was of the essence.
A sigh shuddered through my body and I leaned onto my staff so I wouldn’t collapse in a heap. Whatever happened I could show no weakness in front of Jesse. Ever. He was not my friend or ally. In many ways he was worse than these local people who regarded me as a freak, a fraud, an interloper.
“Children?” Now the officer perked up. He too was dirty and weary, not relishing that he was assigned to the government-provided freak. After all, people like me were not supposed to exist.
“Several. We have to get to them.” Most of them were crying. One was singing and unthinkingly I started to hum the same tune. Someone else glanced at me, as if I were a madwoman. But then I was dirty, and humming, my loose red hair a fright, probably with a wild-eyed expression on my face, eyes two-toned like they went when I used my sight. After a long glance towards the door, then at me, and a glare from Jesse, the officer walked for backup.
Then I started to scream.
“Molly.” Jesse launched into action. When I stopped, I was wrapped in a blanket, sitting on the tailgate of the damned white van, a cup of coffee in my hands. My keeper loomed over me expectantly, a worried look in his brown eyes. But it wasn’t because he cared. It was because if anything happened to me his commanding officer would have his hide.
“I’m fine.” Just overwhelmed, overtired, and overworked. Not that I’d tell him that. I valued my freedom. To them I was a valuable asset. If they know how badly I was breaking they’d do whatever they could to protect that me--even if it meant taking my freedom away.
“Good.” Jesse was large, and if he didn’t have a brown buzz cut and muscles, and not dressed in pressed khakis and a starched shirt, he’d look like a redneck—just add the NRA hat and confederate belt buckle. I was nearly certain Jesse was military, though he’d never confirm or deny it.
Just then there was a commotion—shouts and yells as more people raced to where I’d just been.
“I guess they found them.” Closing my eyes, I took a sip of coffee. It was strong, hot, and laced with sugar and plenty of it.
“They always do.” He stood, feet apart, arms crossed over his muscular chest, angular jaw locked. “The boss says we can leave at nightfall.”
I had no idea who in the government I worked for, only that with every one of these job, they came closer and closer to owning me. I wanted that no more than I wanted to go on these missions in the first place.
Nightfall? Sweat dripped from my brow in the torrid summer heat. I wasn’t even sure where we were. Texas maybe? I didn’t care. Everything blended together. It was better that way. It made these things easier to bear. They didn’t know how hard these were on my soul, how the sheer anguish of these places broke me, how abusing my gift by using it for hours and hours for days on end was making it erratic, me erratic. If they did, they wouldn’t care anyway.
I was just a tool. They’d take care of me the best they could. When I was broken beyond repair, I’d be discarded.
When Jesse was satisfied that I was no longer having an “episode,” I went back to work. The children had indeed been found under the door, both dead and alive. I should be elated, but I wasn’t. I wasn’t disappointed. I just…was. All their being found meant their voices stopped plaguing me—allowing other voices to take their place.
Suddenly, I was nearly knocked off balance. Once again, I leaned on my smooth, wooden staff for support. It’d been with me a long time. Looking down, I realized that there was a small person attached to my leg. She was all eyes of blue, with disheveled blonde plaits, her pink flowered dress ripped and dirty. But her smile was so large, so genuine, that it didn’t matter. I couldn’t stand to be touched—even if my skin wasn’t bare. But she was just a small child so I tried to not cry out, to suppress my urge to cry out—to flee.
“Thank you for saving me.” Those blue eyes were wide and reminded me of something—of someone, but as always, I didn’t know who or what.
“No problem. It’s my job.”
Just not the job I wanted.