Perla smiled to herself as she watched a group of children playing around the yellow slide. She did not use her ability on them; she didn’t like using it on children. After almost a decade of practice, the most important thing she learned was that her power was finicky.
Her best guess was that the ‘highlight reel’ somehow used the person’s past experiences to guess at their future potential. Kids did not have as many past experiences and they usually varied wildly; not yet having integrated the routine of adulthood. She spent her first year with the power avoiding murderous children until she tried it again on some of them. One child’s potential went from a demented, violent criminal to the local mayor in the span of a few hours.
Perla noticed the children stop playing. Five kids gathered in a group and stared at something across the playground. Perla followed their gaze and saw a tall, pale woman in a black dress walking toward the kids. She had a pair of white, twisting horns growing out of her head and Perla immediately grew concerned. She focused on the strange woman and used her ability.
Perla shivered as chills ran down her spine the moment the vision began; she saw only blackness. Then, she heard the screams. More than she’d ever heard before. Perla tried to cover her ears; the problem with her power was that she couldn’t turn it off once it started. The hopeless pleas continued to ring in her ears for the entire vision; she felt like she was staring into an abyss. The darkness seemed thick, almost viscous. After a couple of minutes, she could see light again. The dark vision dissipated; the screams faded. Perla was in the park again. The woman was now closer to the children.
The stranger wasn’t a child. Whatever her history was, it was as dark as her future; Perla decided the children were in danger and sprinted from her seat. She started carrying a knife everywhere after her first year avoiding dangerous kids; she pulled it out as she charged at the woman.
Perla knew there would be consequences; there was no way she could explain her ability without sounding crazy. Jail definitely, maybe even the death penalty. But this woman needed to be stopped here and now. Not just to save the group of curious children, but their presence spurred Perla to action. She stopped in front of the woman and did not hesitate. She jammed the knife forward and felt it sink in. Perla looked up at the tall woman; the horned stranger looked down with sparkling, amused eyes.
“Yes?” she asked with a smirk. Perla looked down at her hand wondering why the woman wasn’t doubled over in pain. The silver blade and the handle in her hand were buried in a small black hole in front of the woman’s stomach. Perla didn’t think twice, she pulled the knife out and aimed it higher at the woman’s heart. She watched a black hole appear in front of the knife and swallow it, along with her hand. She clenched her teeth and withdrew the knife again to try somewhere else; the woman’s shoulder. It was a direct miss.
“You’re just a little ball of determination. Are you having fun?” she asked. Perla heard giggles around her and realized the kids approached them to see what was happening.
“It looks fun!” one of the kids laughed. The horned woman turned to the child.
“You think so?” she asked. Perla turned, ready to jump in front of the chubby kid if she needed to; she saw him nod and smile at the stranger’s question.
“Okay, back up,” the woman said. She pushed Perla back; the short woman staggered backward trying to keep her legs under her. Small black holes opened in front of each child and small rocks began raining out of them. “You,” she pointed at the round kid. “Get a rock and throw it at me.” The child smiled with the sly grin of someone getting permission to do something they were going to anyway. He crouched, picked up a rock, and launched it at the woman’s head. A hole appeared, swallowed the rock, then disappeared.
“If you can hit me, you get a prize,” she said. All at once the group of kids began crouching and lobbing rocks at the woman. After a couple of minutes, the kids started growing tired and their throws were less enthusiastic. Not a single rock came close to touching the woman.
“We give up,” the big kid said. He dropped the rocks from his hand and the other kids followed his lead.
“Good try,” the woman said. The portals closed, then reopened. Gold coins rained out instead of rocks. After a minute the portals disappeared leaving five piles of coins. “It’s probably better if you don’t try to explain where that came from,” she said then turned her attention to Perla. The woman walked toward Perla while the kids were trying to pocket as many coins as they could.
“What’s your story?” she asked.
“You’re an evil monster,” Perla growled. She didn’t know how or why exactly, but she was confident in the feelings her vision gave her. The woman chuckled, almost sweetly.
“I already know my story. I asked yours.”
“What do you care? You’re just going to kill me anyway,”
“No,” the woman said. “Not today. If I were going to do that you wouldn’t have had more than one chance to stab me.”
“What?” Perla asked. She was surprised. Her vision and intuition told her this woman would kill her if the breeze blew the wrong way. But, she seemed to have something else on her mind. “Why not?” she asked. The question came from genuine concern, but once it was out she realized how it sounded. Perla was asking a murderer why she wasn’t going to kill her.
“I’m melancholy about the death of a friend,” she said. “She was like a sister to me. I feel like I lost part of myself.” If Perla did not have eight years of counseling under her belt she might have laughed at the irony of a murderer feeling sad about the loss of a loved one. If Perla did not have eight years of counseling under her belt she would be dead. Instead, her training and maternal instincts kicked in. She stepped closer to the woman and lowered her guard completely.
“What was her name?” Perla asked. “Do you want to talk about her?” The woman looked down at her and nodded.
“Her name was Vanilla…,”