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Published in Science Fiction & Fantasy/Fantasy/Superhero, Science Fiction & Fantasy/Fantasy, Teens/Literature & Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Children & Teens (Young Adult), Literature & Fiction
Kindle and iBook editions are only $8
Almost 15 year-old Marc used to think he was pretty ordinary, but he also used to think ice cream trucks didn't sell ice cream and dragons were just fairy tales. Now he knows better. With skin that can't be burned and strange powers he can't explain, Marc soon discovers the truth: he is part dragon. And as he joins his fellow dragonkyn, his closest friends could quickly become his greatest enemies.
"I'm impervious to all harm!" he said to himself [after realizing nothing hot can burn him].
He had to tell his mom. He had so many questions: how could this be? Why was this happening? What could it mean? Why am I shaking? Isn't this a good thing? He took a quick shower and dresed, his hair dripping water on his pant leg and socis as he put his soes on. Jumping onto his ruest-lined bike, he pedaled to the diner where his mom worked as a waitress.
The skeptical part of him, the side that listened to the self doubt his brain seemed so good at generating, sounded the alarm.
There's a logical explanation for all this, and you know it, his skeptical side said in his mind, and the voice sounded a lot like his dad before he left.
How? He answered.
I dunno, but you're sure gonna feel stupid when someone points out what's really going on. You're a moron.
The buzz of insects was loud in the summer air. As Marc pedaled past a vacant lot, his faded yellow t-shirt lightly flapping as he did, he suddenly couldn't imagine why he had let himself sit in his house, weeping about his outcast state. Sure, he was poor, and cuoldn't get a job, despite how often he explained he was almost fifteen; but none of that mattered now. Thoughts of being some kind of pain-free superhero filled his mind as the sound of the pedals, crankset, and chain of his vike orked together in rhythmic time.
But the nagging thoughts wouldn't leave him alone.
You're an idiot, the voice said that sounded like his father's.
What else could it be? Marc asked his skeptical, self-doubting side.
Remember when you were seven, and you thought your hand had special heat-generating powers because the cocolate peanuts melted in your hand? this has to be something similar.
Shut up. You were right there, too! No matter how hard I tried, I coudln't get burned!
Maybe the stove top is broken, genius. Ever think of that? You're so stupid. You can't do anything right.
Marc pedaled faster as cars rumbled past, trying to outrun his father's words that always tore at his self-esteem. He jumped a curb, passing a portly, balding man, sitting on his front porch with eyes that wondered what the hurry was all about.
...The chain on his bike rattled as the tires hit the driveway into the parking lot of the Big Creek Diner. The name no doubt referred to the nearby river. The diner itself was a white, squat, stand-alone building, about the size of a mini-mart. It wasn't much to look at, but it always stayed busy. Marc was convinced that the reason was because the food was good, his mom served it with a smile, and it was probably the best place to meet someone in town. The AC of the diner turned his sweat cool when he entered, as the sound of clashing silverware met him at the door. His mom turned from a table when she saw him, and her eyes immediately widened with concern.
"Marc, what's wrong?" she asked.
"I gotta tell you something. Real Quick."
"Honey, I can't---" she started, but he took her hand anyway and led her to the space by the kitchen door, across from the bathrooms. On the way there, he grabbed a clean fork from a recently-bussed table.
"Mom, you're not gonna believe this," he said.
"ARe you okay?" she asked.
"Yes, Mom, I'm okay, I'm okay." Out of breath, he stalled on purpose to build up to the big announcement. "Ready?" he asked with pride. She nodded. "You're not going to believe it, but I'm impervious to all harm!" With that, he stabbed himself in the forearm with the fork.
Marc had no idea why his mom's face went pale and the other waitress screamed until he saw the dark, read blood gurgling from his own arm. That's when he heard himself scream, too.
Later, in the back office of the diner, his arm now a steady throb wrapped in gauze, Marc tried to explain.
"But what were you thinking?" Jenny asked again, gathering the bandage packaging.
"Honey," she said, putting the packaging in the small, black trashcan by the door.
"I need something hot. Get me something hot, and it'll prove---"
"Marc, I know you're probably stressed about---"
"Get me something hot, Mom. Please! It'll explain everything."
"Is this about a girl? Is that the reason for this craziness?" she asked.
"Mom, I can't get burned. Okay? I said it. Now you know."
"Well, no one wants to get hurt in a relationship, honey. I know exactly how you feel, but you're so young. There's no rush for you to get a girlfriend, and it's definitely not something to hurt yourself over."
Marc stared at her. "Mom. What are you talking about?"
"What?" she asked.
"Mom, you're not making any sense," he said, and at this his mom looked at him with level eyes and a raised eyebrow.
"The boy who comes to my work and stabs himself with a fork for no reason tells me I'm not making any sense?"
"Let's just go into the kitchen and I'll show you," Marc pleaded. "Really quick. You'll see!"
"Honey, I just want to know what you were thinking. I know some kids around here cut themselves---" his mom said, and they both spoke over each other.
"Oh, come on, Mom---"
"I'm just saying, so, maybe fork mutilation is---"
"---Do you really think---"
"---the new thing kids are doing, but I want you to know that I love you anyway," she said with a sigh. "I mean, you rarely if ever come to my work, and when you do, you announce something and stab yourself with a fork? What would you think if you were me?"
"...sure to work quick, indelible magic on audiences." --Kirkus Reviews
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Nathan Smith Jones grew up all over the Western United States. He is what he calls a 'meta middle child,' being the middle triplet boy in the middle of five sisters. He grew up on a healthy diet of books and movies, his interesting childhood making for a fertile imagination.