“Worst first day ever,” the thought crossed Quinn’s mind as she unlocked her bike. Around her, the world was deathly still. The green grounds of the imposing, prison-like high school were empty of students. Technically, school was over for the day but Quinn froze time as soon as the bell started to ring. She planned to be comfortable at home before it finished.
The school day had been so boring that she avoided using her powers for much more than a few minutes at a time. Quinn did not want to drag it out any longer than it already was. Instead, most of her day was spent wishing she trusted someone enough to reveal her powers. Her family almost never stayed in one city for more than a year. She didn’t mind too much, Quinn had a strong introverted streak but she often wished she didn’t have to keep her powers so secret.
Quinn took a short cut through part of the forest to get home. She wasn’t in any particular hurry but she enjoyed riding her bike around the trees like an obstacle course. Her family moved to town about a month ago and she finished the summer by riding through the forest most days. Her mom encouraged her to visit a park or the mall to try and make some friends but Quinn didn’t see the point. Her parents more or less lived out of boxes now. They never unpacked all the way to stay ready for the next move.
She stopped by a tree to admire a time-stopped squirrel trying to fit a golf ball-sized nut in its dime-sized mouth. As she leaned closer to it she heard a crunch of leaves to her right. She looked deeper into the forest, toward the sound, and saw a young, violet-haired girl about her age. The girl had a green leather bag on her back; she looked like she was headed home from school too. Quinn swiveled her head to check on the squirrel next to her: it was still, still. Then, she turned back to the girl. The violet-haired stranger smiled broadly then put her sneakers back on the pedals to ride away. She giggled loud enough for Quinn to hear and turned to ride back the way she came.
“It’s a trap,” Quinn said to herself. It’s hard finding people to trust when you don’t trust anyone. She sat back on her seat to decide what to do. “I’ve seen TV. I’m special. Obviously, the government or someone wants to kidnap me.” The moment she decided to head home and ignore the stranger she heard the crunching of leaves again.
“COME ON!!” the stranger came out of the forest far enough to be seen and yelled at Quinn. She was still smiling.
“OKAY!” Quinn said and pedaled forward. Something about the girl’s earnest smile eased Quinn’s paranoia. She lost sight of the girl as the forest grew thicker but she noticed tire tracks on the soft ground. Just as she started to wonder if she was lost Quinn came to a clearing. A small wooden shack sat in the center of the clearing. It was about the size of Quinn’s room: 10′ x 10′. The girl was standing by the door and her bike rested against one of the walls.
“Hi! I’m Mundo,” the girl said as Quinn rolled to a stop in front of the shack.
“I’m Quinn. Uh,.. so, how are you moving around?” she asked. Quinn left off the part about “in stopped time” because she thought it sounded silly. Once the words came out she immediately realized it sounded even sillier without it. Luckily, the girl seemed to understand. She chuckled.
“I’m Unique like you,” Mundo said. Quinn sat up straighter on her bike and gave Mundo all her attention.
“Really?” she asked. Her own smile started to grow; she might have found a friend. “You go to school?” she asked. Quinn pointed in the vague direction of where she thought her school was. She didn’t bother remembering the name. They were all the same. It was a small town and she did not think there was more than one high school.
“Yeah,” Mundo nodded, then shook her head. “but not there,” she waved a hand in the same direction Quinn pointed. I go to a school for Uniques like me… like us,” she corrected herself with a smile at Quinn.
“A school?” Quinn planted both feet on the forest floor and stood up eagerly. “Really? A school for people that can stop time?” Mundo laughed and shook her head.
“It’s a school for Unique Souls. Some can stop time, some can do other things. We learn how to use our powers.” Quinn let the bike topple over and ran up to Mundo.
“How did you get in? Can I get in?” Mundo nodded.
“Of course!” she grinned. “I’d like to say I know the right people to help you,” she shrugged and turned to the shack’s front door. “But it’s not like it’s hard to get in. You just have to show up really.” She unlocked the door and twisted the knob.
“You.. you live here?” Quinn asked. Mundo giggled again and threw the door open. The one-room shack wasn’t even a room. It appeared to have been plopped on the ground with no floor of its own. The area just inside the door was a pit of soft brown soil with a six-foot-long ditch in the middle; the hole was about a foot deep. There was no sign of any furniture or any hallways leading to any other rooms.
“Nope. This is where I go to school.”