The Society #3

The Society (working title) is a novel-length urban fantasy story taking place in a near-future America where some humans are born with latent powers to manipulate the elements. The main character is Jesse Sullivan who is almost 22 years old when a tragic event reveals his powers that must be hidden before he is discovered. You can find the first post from this story here and the second post here. This excerpt is taken after that event when Jesse has just begun training his powers in a secret Society.

Loud and even bass notes punched Jesse’s bones, invigorating them rather than adding to their weariness. Just walking into the North Gate bar district allowed him to enjoy a new frame of mind. One that wasn’t focused on eating a dozen eggs or moving a feather across a room. Now Jesse got to participate in a youth tradition that stretched back centuries among various cultures.

Living for a single night.

Derek looked smart in his fashionable tan pants, white shirt, and dark blue bomber jacket. He bounced with energy as they approached Fort Terry’s Outpost, the bar that Jaden had messaged Jesse earlier saying was the starting point of first week celebrations.

Jesse hadn’t participated in the nightlife of the city since he arrived. Derek hadn’t really either, simply because they were so tired all week. But now, even though fatigue threatened to send Jesse home early, he was determined to push through and have a world-class evening.

The bar had a few booths and standing tables surrounding a large open dance floor, sharply colored lights flashing across the space as very tall speakers flanked a young man wearing headphones and pressing keys on an old-fashioned laptop.

They saw Jaden standing at the bar ordering another drink for herself. Jesse introduced Derek to her as a loud, boisterous voice yelled over the pulsing music, “Oi! Texas! Manchester!”

Jesse turned to look behind him when he saw Beau, the elemental who he had met at the School on his first day there. It felt so long ago, but he hadn’t seen him since they had last talked in the cafeteria with Derek.

Beau sauntered his way over to them and clapped Derek on the back, who melted slightly when he saw Beau’s meticulously messy hair and heavily unbuttoned cloth shirt.

“How you doing, boys? You finish your first week?”

But before either of them could respond, Beau noticed Jaden sipping on her fresh drink and said, “Holy shit. Is that Jaden Peters?”

Beau stepped up a little closer to her, acting like he couldn’t see her properly before. She politely giggled and placed a gentle hand on his chest before he got too close. She then put on her own fake, astonished voice.

“Oh my, is that Beau Kingsley?”

“You know it is,” he winked, his ego already boosted by a few drinks.

“Did you all just finish your first week?” Beau asked. They all nodded while he grinned widely.

“Well fuck! What are we standing around for?! Let’s get you boys a drink and hopefully a pretty girl like Miss Peters here.”

“Or a pretty boy,” Derek piped up.

Beau conceded, “Or a pretty boy. I’ll try not to tempt you too much.”

“Sorry, you’re not my type,” Derek lied.

They each grabbed their drink and made their way to the dance floor, bouncing to the music and voicing along to every other word more and more enthusiastically as the night went on and the drinks kept coming.

He stuck pretty closely with his friends, occasionally running to the bar to get another round before bringing it back to the dance floor and bopping along to the next hit that screamed from the tall speakers. 

Derek didn’t stick so closely to the group. He began floating around the place as more liquid courage entered his bloodstream. This left Jesse feeling like a third wheel to Beau and Jaden. Beau kept bringing her in to dance closer to him, and she would playfully roll off his advances without really rejecting him or getting out of his orbit.

So Jesse tried to assess the bar himself, feeling slightly more confident after imbibing a handful of drinks. He made his way to the sidewall of the establishment and scanned the crowd, nobody really sticking out. Derek was caught up in a conversation with a good looking young man enjoying a drink that Derek had no doubt brought over.

He was struck by how normal everything felt. All of these people who could light fires with a thought or create rain with a wave of their hands, they were all here together now, just young men and women trying to enjoy tonight without thinking about tomorrow.

Jesse glanced at the dance floor and didn’t see Beau or Jaden. He looked back over to where Derek still stood chatting up the other guy. He scanned the room and didn’t see them anywhere, but then he had to remind himself that he was not their keeper.

And just like that, a familiar feeling reared itself inside Jesse, something he didn’t anticipate seeing since he had walked into a fantastical city deep underground.

Isolation.

It’s not enough to feel alone or sad or jealous. Jesse was an expert in isolation. It had been his constant companion for most of his adult life. The ability to stand in a crowded bar but feel completely disconnected from anyone there was something like a curse that Jesse thought was broken.

He was now living in a secret society, training his body and mind to control the air around him. Eventually, he might even fly! But nothing could cure Jesse of this feeling. There was no magic strong enough to break it because, desperate as he was to ignore it, it was a part of him. It helped form him into the person he was and into the elemental he would become.

But on that night, when his inebriation left wounds a little fresher and emotions a little more raw, he decided to give in to the isolation. He made his way across the bar and out of the building into the street outside. He didn’t want to go back to the room, mostly because he didn’t want to be seen going back to the School so early and alone.

Instead, he decided to take a walk through the city center. Most of the businesses and buildings were closed, the bars and clubs being the only life in the quiet and massive cavern. Jesse found himself back on the main street, Memorial Avenue, his feet seeming to carry him towards the green city block that allowed green to break up the earth tones that surrounded him on all sides.

He walked into the city park and followed the path, his feet dragging a little as the energy that the drinks had supplied began drifting off, leaving him only with the sluggish fatigue to which he had woken up. His ears perked up at the familiar sound of water falling into itself. He walked up to find the magnificent Memorial fountain he had discovered on his first day in the city. The guards stood at the same five intervals around the large circle of water pooled and contained by nothing but the will of those elemental guards. Each of them gave no expression or show of strain, and only now after a week of blowing over basic pieces of fabric did Jesse realize the pure strength that each of these guards contained. They never—

“What are they doing?”

Jesse turned around to find the young woman who had asked the question. She stood casually tilting her head, looking at the edge of the pool for whatever seam might give away the secret of the trick.

“Sorry?” Jesse responded, slightly off-kilter because he didn’t think anyone else would be at the park this late, let alone a stunning, blonde woman like the one in front of him.

“Sorry, I’m new here. I was just wondering why these officers are just standing there?”

Her voice had a slight edge to it without being overly rude. She was a person who said what she thought, honestly and without reservation.

“Oh,” Jesse said, “well, this is actually a memorial. Apparently, there was a big attack or a massacre and a lot of people died, and this fountain or….uh, this whole park is a memorial for them.”

“Huh, and these people,” she walked around the pool, casually pointing to the black, pressed dress uniforms of the guards, “are actually keeping everything in place and making the fountain work?”

Embarrassed that she had caught onto the facts much quicker than Jesse had when he arrived but satisfied that he actually knew something that another person here didn’t know, Jesse confidently said, “Yea, these are some of the most powerful water elementals in the entire Society. It is a massive honor to be a part of the Honor Guard.”

“Wow,” she said having walked all the way around and made it back to where Jesse stood.

“My name is Jesse by the way.”

“I’m Dora.”

She extended her hand and Jesse shook it, feeling something like a static shock as he felt her soft, warm skin. Now that she was in front of him, he noticed that her long blonde hair fell to her right side, while the left side of her head buzzed short into a post-modern punk ideal to which Jesse felt very attracted.

Dora stared back into Jesse’s examining eyes, the warmth of her brown eyes saddled up to him and made all his earlier feelings drift away.

“When did you get into the city?” Jesse asked.

“Only a couple of hours ago. I’m supposed to be in my room resting but I couldn’t sleep. So I thought I would explore the city a little bit.”

“By yourself? Donchu—Don’t you have a roommate?” Jesse asked, a slight mumble creeping into his voice which he tried to contain.

Her eye squinted just slightly enough with a sly smile to register his failure to hide the verbal slippage.

“No, I don’t have a roommate with me yet.”

Dora paused and stepped past Jesse, heading back towards the empty street. He couldn’t stop himself from following her. She pulled him towards her like a magnet.

“Do you want to walk back to the School?” he asked.

She stopped and looked back at Jesse.

“Who says I’m ready to stop exploring?”

Jesse was so tired. His body begged for hours and hours of rest, but this girl turned his entire mind upside down, making every rational thought take a backseat to whatever she suggested. Without a moment wasted, he asked, “Can I come with you?”

She smiled cheekily before extending the crook of her elbow, offering it to him playfully.

“Well, come on Jesse, why don’t you show me the city.”

He happily grabbed her arm, and they walked out of the park and back onto Memorial Avenue, heading away from the School and towards the towering Felix Hall. A few people rode cargo bikes with a few items loaded up for transport, but mostly the streets were empty.

“So Jesse, how long have you been here?” she asked as she pulled him off of the sidewalk to walk in the middle of the street.

“Only a little over a week.”

“Oh so you’re a freshman like me!” she placed her hand over his hand, and he would have given anything to make sure it never left.

“And what are you?” she continued.

“What am I?”

“Yea, what’s your power?”

“Oh, I’m wind. You?”

She stopped in the middle of the street, pushed his arm away, and took a step back with a breathy, “Hmphf!” Fake outrage caked onto her face as she continued.

“Don’t you know you’re never supposed to ask a lady what her power is?”

“Uh…” Jesse’s voice fell off, confused about this unusual girl and loving every second of it.

She laughed and took hold of his arm again, walking towards the end of the street at Felix Hall.

“What’s that?” she asked, pointing to the massive gathering place.

“Well, apparently that is like the stadium and the amphitheater and the all-hands-on-deck place for the Society. It’s named after a cat.”

Jesse continued explaining what Derek and he had learned only a week ago. They kept walking, zig-zagging through the blocks so that Dora could point to different buildings and Jesse would rack his memory from when he had looked up all the information days ago, doing his best to remember which building was the Library of the Society and which one was the Courts of Justice since they sat across the street from one another.

Dora was insatiable. She loved that Jesse would just answer whatever question she threw at him, but she playfully dodged any questions about herself or her own life.

Eventually, Jesse’s feet pleaded for rest, and he told her that he needed to go to bed.

“Don’t you miss home?” She had ignored his statement and instead was staring at the open-air above them. “Yea, I do” he agreed, a pang of homesickness hitting him for the first time since he arrived here.

Dora suddenly snapped her head back facing Jesse and said, “I think I’m ready for bed.”

Astonished and more than a little confused with her overall, Jesse didn’t question it and they began walking back towards the School, taking longer than usual without his bike to speed them along.

When they finally got back at the School, Jesse got out his ID and asked for her number. She tapped her own against his and her profile was added to his contacts before she walked into her room, only a few doors down from Jesse’s.

Jesse walked the few paces towards his door feeling slightly lighter than before and significantly giddier. He felt like he had gotten in on a secret before anyone else. He managed to make friends with one of the cutest girls he had ever met before anyone like Beau even knew she existed.

Jesse’s room was very dark and he used the screen of his ID to find his way towards his bed. He could vaguely make out Derek’s shape on his own bed before he stripped down and climbed into bed, feeling much less alone.

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