Today’s the day. You’re turning thirteen. You wake up, tap your wrist to turn off your alarm, and blink into the foggy early spring morning. There’s a slight pain on your left side, easily written off as a misadventure in tossing and turning while carousing the dream zone. Your head’s a little blurry too, like a signal’s getting interrupted, but that’s just waking up, right?
Your mom calls from downstairs. Breakfast. School. The usual routine demands, and you follow them. All the way through to the shower, the clothes, and while you don’t need a backpack – something your parents laugh about – with all your books and notes stored in the Tama on your wrist, you’re nonetheless checking that you haven’t forgotten anything as you reach for the lift’s call button – it’s a long ride to ground in the stacks – when it hits.
At first, it’s like your skin is burning. Only not just your skin but everything inside it too. Except there’s no flame. No sound either except your own shouting, which you realize you’re doing when your parents run over, their faces showing a deeper kind of fear than you’ve ever seen. This isn’t concern about a skinned knee or the flu, but an existential crisis.
And you know why. You’ve been told, taught, tested. Warned that some anomalies are never caught before it happens. Now it’s happening to you.
You’re kneeling now, hands pressed against the faux-wood flooring, a quiet plea to nature in this metal place. Take a breath, your mother’s saying, and she reaches for you even as your dad tells her not to. You feel her hand on your shoulder and it’s a reaction honed by years of parent-child support to reach up and grab hold.
The burn becomes kinetic, a fiery thrum coursing from your right hand, still on that wood, through your shoulders, your nerves, through your left arm to that clasped hand. You’re looking right at her when it happens, and the shock in those eyes as they turn brown and knotted will stay with you forever.
Next comes your father, unwilling to believe what’s happened, and you, tears doing their work on your eyes, turn to him for answers. You touch his shirt, you grab his hand, and the fire burns again. Sharp, but even in this horrible moment you begin to understand it, measure the flow and, like flexing a muscle, turn it off.
You are a miracle. A genetic lottery winner. A silent house cheers.