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    I'm a writer and teacher from Michigan. Interests: science fiction, fantasy, social & environmental justice, and Sailor Moon.

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  1. I apologize about any typos/errors. I couldn't copy and pastE, so I hastily retyped everything. Here is the current opening scene: Chapter 1 Malik If he'd just gone straight home after detention, like he'd been told, they wouldn't have seen him. West Stadium Boulevard curved ahead toward Arbor Street Plaza and away from Malik's home. Traffic idled that night, game night, but periodically, a lone car or two splashed by on wet pavement. Malik stared straight ahead each time one passed, expressionless, looking like he had somewhere to be. A few blocks south, the Big House roared with raucous fans, music, and whistles, echoed by tailgaters up and down Main Street. Maybe a short time ago, he would have tripped off the maize'n blue analgesic that gave Ann Arbor her fix and kept her from going crazy like other cities. But that night, no amount of hype could drown his mother's peremptory voice out of his head. Pull your pants up, Malik. Don't wear your hood like that. Keep your hands out of your pockets. Her edicts were frantic and stern. She wrapped them like charms around his neck to keep him safe. To keep him alive. If you get stopped for any reason, don't mouth off. If you get scared, don't act out. You hear me? Don't run, don't scream, and don't you dare cry. He always cringed when she said that part about crying. He cringed even now as he pulled his hood up over his head and tried not to think about the shopping incident from a few months ago. She had to keep bringing that up. Everyone did. Malik shoved his hands into his pockets, trying to keep them warm as he walked toward the plaza, away from the school he had to survive for two more years, a school that always found some reason to penalize him, even though he kept his head down and got good grades in most of his classes. You just do whatever they say and bring your skinny ass home. If something happens, you let me handle it. His mom was always coming up to the school raising hell about the teachers being racists, to the point that Malik stopped telling her about things. The plaza was only a few more blocks up the road. Malik felt crazy even thinking about going back there after what happened, but he was just one drone part short of solving Northern Michigan's deforestation problem and earning a full ride to the University of Michigan's school of engineering, one of the few still operating and taking unsolicited applications. He just reached the intersection before the plaza when he heard a car screech to a halt and someone call his name. He knew who it was even before he turned to look. Malik's mother coming down to the school so often put him on more than just the administration's shitlist. Cameron Cooper and Dylan Wright had made it their personal mission to punish him. They were three years older and didn't even go to Pinecrest High anymore, but could still be found hanging around the city, usually going to parties at the university, even though neither of them was even remotely smart enough to be students there. Dad would want me to fight, Malik thought, as he stepped out onto the street. He wasn't the same scrawny kid they'd tormented his freshman year. He was lean but strong, after putting hours in at the gym with his dad's old army friend. He could hold his own if he had to. But he hoped he wouldn't have to. He slid his earbuds into his ears and stared straight ahead, deadpan, refusing to look at them. Cameron's Ford Mustang rolled to a stop in front of him, cutting Malik off from the plaza parking lot. Malik stared at the tire, carefully still, delaying his glance upward to what he knew would be the smug, half-stoned face of one of his greatest tormentors. He felt empty and cool and weightless, nothing but jitter, but he concealed his nervousness as his eyes panned upward, rolling over Cameron's pale arm hanging listlessly out of the car. Malik's nostrils twitched at the subtle exhaust fumes leaking from Cameron's car. Hadn't these morons ever heard of reducing their carbon footprints? "S'up, homie?" Cameron's sneer curved around the word. His eyes were hard and hateful. Dylan smirked stupidly in the background, pleased with Cameron's taunt and daring Malik to do anything about it. Malik let out a resigned sigh. They probably didn't even know what a carbon footprint was, even though children were indoctrinated with climate-change orthodoxy since nursery school. Too little, too late. An angry driver stuck behind Cameron's car honked at him, and when Cameron didn't budge, jerked into the opposite lane and sped off, tires screeching, pipes polluting. Malik hardly registered the insult the driver hurled out of his window. He didn't look away from Cameron's smug glare. Malik struck first. Cameron had started to say something, but Malik never heard his next taunt. All he could hear was his own heart in his ears, the sharp crack of his knuckles against Cameron's nose, and then the terrified, enraged shrieking that hissed through Cameron's blood-streaked teeth. Malik's chest deflated, each breath like a bit of air escaping a balloon, until he sank into the realization of what he'd done. His eyes met Cameron's for a moment of mutual hatred, and then Cameron reached for the door handle and Malik kicked the door shut just as it opened. He bolted around the car and across the street. The mustang's engine revved up behind him. His legs stretched out long and frantic in front of him, his gait awkward since the growth spurt he'd had that summer. He'd never been particularly athletic, but his PE teacher hoped he might at least give basketball some consideration and give himself a real chance to go to college, if that was what he really wanted. The cool air turned to fire in his lungs. The car screeched behind him. He glanced over his shoulder just in time to see Cameron clumsily round the car off, but the vehicle slid sideways. Malik pitched forward. His head smacked the pavement before he could even register being hit. "Dude, what the hell did you do?" Dylan's shrill voice jolted Malik out of the darkness. Malik scrambled to his feet, his breathing ragged and sharp. It didn't hurt as bad as it should have. Malik didn't stop long to think about it. He knew how adrenaline could distract the human body from pain. He'd used that fact to settle a debate once: if The Wolverine lost his ability to heal, would he still use his claws? The obvious answer was yes. Not only because of adrenaline, but because The Wolverine was both heroic and hotheaded, and hotheaded heroes didn't let pain stop them. Punching Cameron hadn't been heroic. It was just hotheaded. But that didn't stop Malik from feeling like a vigilante badass. He felt like Peter Parker just then. Actually, Miles Morales, he thought. By the time he reached the tech store's door, his chest burst with glee. The door opened before he could grab the handle. The salesclerk blocked Malik's entry. He appeared startled. Malik struggled to catch his breath. Unfortunately, he recognized the salesclerk as the same one who had got him in trouble the last time he was there, but he tried anyway. "Hey, man. Can you call the police?" He resisted the urge to laugh. He saw how ironic it was, asking this man to call the police. "It's not a joke," he promised. "I need help." "Oh my God." The salesclerk ignored him. He rushed past Malik, into the parking lot, where a small crowd of store attendants were gathering in front of Cameron's car. Malik rolled his eyes. Typical, he thought. They're more worried about Cameron and Dylan. Figuring the bullies couldn't hurt him in front of an audience, Malik trailed the salesclerk back to the scene of his assault. He slid his hand into his pocket, feeling for his phone so he could call his mom, but two things were missing. His phone and his pocket. Malik looked down. He couldn't fully see his legs. They were there, but they were...translucent and pulsing. I'm trippin', he thought. Maybe hallucination was some weird side effect of being hit by a car. A siren cut through the air and relief temporarily flooded Malik's senses before tension set in. Getting the police involved could go either way. He started rehearsing his story in his mind, getting it straight. Yes, I hit first. But that's only because they beat me so bad one time, I had to go to the E. R. You can ask my mom. His mom. He had to call her. His phone. He must have dropped it. He turned around and scanned the ground. He didn't see it. It must have fallen out when he'd been hit. He maneuvered his way through the crowd, careful not to touch anyone, not to set anyone off. He found it. It had fallen near one of the cement parking blocks. Even though the screen was cracked, Malik could make out his mom's face as the phone rang. She would have been at work, but by now his little sister would have informed her that he wasn't home. Malik didn't pick up the phone. He just stared at the bruised-faced black boy, who lay sprawled in the center of the crowd, head propped up by one of the parking blocks and a pool of blood. He stumbled backward. "No," he uttered, anguished. He sobbed. No one moved to comfort him. No one knew he was there. Malik Thomas was dead.
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