A short story about a young homeless boy, Theo, whose magic or mental illness — he’s not entirely sure which — prevents him from living a normal life. He is taken in by a pair of kind strangers who soon learn they’ve gotten in a little over their heads.
The world convulsed around him, and Theo sank back against an old concrete wall. He pressed his knuckles to his temples and wished that everything would just stop. Wishing, praying, never helped, but he tried anyway. His vision blurred.
It didn’t stop.
Wide-eyed, he watched the empty alleyway as pavement buckled and buildings swayed. A distant car alarm began to wail.
Above him, the windows of the building shattered. Theo threw himself to the ground and shielded his head with his arms as glass slivers rained down on him. The earth ripped open, slashing through the alley. Bricks and stones disappeared into the abyss. He bit back a scream.
“Hey,” a voice said.
The world stopped shaking.
Panicked, Theo tried–and failed–to get up. For a moment he thought he might pass out. A woman with spiked green hair and three rings in her right eyebrow stood a few paces away. The alley looked as it had before–no glass, no crumpled buildings, no chasm.
“Hey, kid,” the woman said again as Theo brought a bleeding finger up to his mouth. “Don’t do that. It’s filthy. You’ll make yourself sick.”
Her eyes were bright and inquisitive, the eyes of someone who meant well, who might buy him dinner or take him in for a night or two if she figured out he had nowhere else to go. That never, ever ended well.
Theo pushed himself to his feet, favoring his injured hand. He rubbed his finger against the side of his jeans, smearing blood over caked dirt. “Yeah, whatever.”
The woman pulled a Band-Aid from her denim purse. “Here. If it gets infected, you’ll be sorry. Doctors aren’t cheap.”
“Yeah,” he said again, taking it. He shouldered his backpack, dusted off his jeans as if he cared about them, and tried to move past her. “Thanks.”
Her footsteps followed along behind him. “You need a ride somewhere? A bus pass?”
No–he needed sleep and maybe something to eat. The way he felt now, it could happen again, any moment. His mind oozed slowly between thoughts, trying to find a way to talk her into buying him food and then leaving. The last thing he needed was another episode with her around.
He stumbled instead, and she was there to support him.
“Kid,” she said, sounding amused but worried, “you all right?” She leaned in closer, checking his breath for alcohol. He clung to her, knowing she’d smell nothing but dirt and sweat.
“What’s your name?” he murmured. She smelled nice, spicy and almost green, like her hair.
She laughed, surprised. “Eve.”