I live in a home for children. We're special children; we don't live with our parents, but there's nice and ok people looking after us. The home for children is the only world I now. Outside, there's a forest and a lake, but I've never wandered very far. I like it here.
I get along with people. It's my special ability. Most of us have some kind of special ability, I think. Patty can make really cool burps, and one of the boys can stand and walk around on his hands forever and ever. He just doesn't feel like it for very long, since standing on your hands is actually rather uncomfortable. I know, I tried it once.
There's one boy that gives me such grief. He doesn't understand my special ability. I've tried so hard to make friends with him, but I think he was born with a thick glass wall between him and the rest of the world.
It's not like he's shy. When he wants something, he gets it, and doesn't even have to speak up. I think people are maybe a bit afraid of him. Which is kind of funny, since he never threatens people and doesn't even quarrel with anyone, even though sometimes they'd really deserve a punch in the nose. A gentle punch, but a punch anyway.
But it's not like he is bottling up lots and lots of anger, ready to explode, either. I've met people like that, and I know how to get along with them. I really really don't know how to warm up this guy. He's just too strange. So I've mostly given up and let him be. It just bothers me, every now and then. The unreachable boy.
I'm not sure what his name is or if he has one, but everyone here calls him Venom. Even the grown-ups. I don't think it can be a real name, I've never heard of anyone called being called Venom. Well, except for him. I asked him about it once, or maybe four times, but he never told me what his real name was.
That's the kind of people I need to deal with here. But I get along with everyone, even if they don't get along with me particularly much.
Today, we're going to have a fighting competition. Well, it's not really fighting, I think it's called ju-do. I've heard about ju-do from the other kids. I don't really care what it is, it's not my special ability to be good at it anyhow. I don't expect to be competing much, but we all participate anyway, because it's good to try things out. That's what grown-ups have told us. I think I agree, but I still haven't been practising very hard on this thing.
We're almost set up to start, but Venom's in his room upstairs. Jenny and Karen, two friends of mine, are wondering aloud where he is, and I make a joke about his "drug habit". It's something that makes you lock up in your room for hours and hours, and not very flattering - I know these things, I heard it from the older kids. Jenny and Karen giggle; I think it's fun to make them laugh. But the happily fluttering bird that is my mood suddenly drops down like a rock when I notice Venom's out of his room after all - and has heard every word I said.
To be honest, I don't really understand why I say stuff like that about him. I know it wasn't his drug habit that kept him in his room. He's just taking this competition really seriously and it's important to him. But something makes me want to throw nasty thorns around when I think about him. It's not at all like me. I get along with people, you know. And that means not saying nasty things about them, not even behind their back.
Venom's got a special outfit for ju-do. It's got black pants with big heavy pantlegs, and a red shirt with strange, wide but kind of short sleeves. It looks really dramatic, and makes me think of dragons, the sort that breathe fire and can fly really high up. He's got a permission from the grown-ups to wear the outfit instead of the white pyjamas the rest of us wear; I think it's because they know it's his special ability or something. No one here expects to beat him at this thing, I don't think even the grown-ups would manage that.
When he's down the stairs, he looks at me strangely as he passes. I don't really know why, but the bird that is my mood, you know, the one that turned to stone, suddenly wants to dig its way through my stomach to hide there.
The competition starts. Whenever someone fights Venom, he just steps around them, grabs and bends their arm or something and says "Yield?", and they all do. Even the boys who are probably second or third best, and have practised a lot, just take a moment and they all gasp "Yield!" in no time. It must be his special ability, I'm sure of it now. The grown-ups clap after every fight and encourage the rest of us. I'm not sure if anyone expects to ever become good enough to beat Venom at his own game. He just shifts past everyone and down they go.
I don't have a strategy at all. When it's my turn to fight him, among the last, I just try to figure out what he'll do and not risk getting hurt by accident while trying to beat him. But he winks at me and makes a small gesture with his hand, inviting me to attack him. I leap towards him quickly, in a move we tried out one day at ju-do practice, and aim for his shoulder. He moves under my outstretched arm, hits me on the throat as an aside, and makes me stumble and fall from overextending myself.
I land on my stomach, and the air is knocked from my lungs. When he grabs my hand and twists my arm, he asks, just like every time before, "Yield?"
But when I try to answer, I notice I can't make a sound! I huff for air, but can only make a little wheezing sound. I realize I've fallen with my face towards the wall, away from everyone else, so they can't really read my lips either. I try to shout that I yield, but nothing comes out.
I get really scared when he puts a foot against my back for support and twists my arm some more. I'm sure he's going to break my arm; I can almost hear it creaking and wanting to tear itself loose from my shoulder. It hurts more than anything. And he asks again, "Yield?"
I can hear some people commenting. Their voices sound worried. I want to cry, but I just need to get a little sound out first. Venom does something with my wrist and little stars dance in my eyes. They're not pretty stars, they're angry and they sting to look at. I'm pretty sure he's going to kill me now. And when I come to think of it, he's got a point. I did say nasty things about him, and maybe I really truly made him angry. I wish I could take it all back, it really wasn't like me at all.
But then, suddenly, I get my voice back and croak, "Yield!" just loud enough for someone close by to hear. Venom lets go of my arm immediately, and helps me up. He shakes my other hand like he's shook everyone's and smiles politely when he thanks me for the fight. I'm not sure if I'm pale or crimson in the face, but I feel a bit dizzy. When the grown-ups come to check if I'm ok, I just smile a silly smile and say I'm fine, but I need a break.
With that, I go out. I need time to think.
I go to the nearby forest and all the way to my thinking rock. It's a big flat rock where I go to sit when I want to be by myself. And I really need to get my head back straight before I can go back. I start to shiver all over, as if it were really cold, even though it's summer. It takes a while to stop shaking.
When I can focus on something else than having my hands not shake, I realize I'm not alone. Venom's standing behind me, on the thinking rock. He found my hideout! And we're away from everyone else. I really really wish I hadn't left the house...
He sits down on his legs right behind me. When he lifts his arms towards me, I cower away from him. But instead of strangling me, he just grabs hold of my shoulders and squeezes them a bit here and there, and suddenly they feel a lot better again.
Then he rises and comes to sit next to me. Neither of us says anything for a long while. It's not like me at all.
He breaks the silence, finally. "You didn't say anything." He was there, he knows I didn't tell anyone. It's a statement of fact, and he doesn't even sound particularly surprised about it.
I nod. "I didn't say anything."
He looks at me funny, then turns to stare in the distance again and nods to himself. "You did alright. Didn't even cry. Were you scared?"
My eyes go wide just from thinking about it. I nod quickly.
"Good. I'm not going to hurt you." He turns to face me. "We can be friends now." He offers his hand, and I shake it.
With that, I figure we have a common understanding. And he doesn't make me feel like wanting to throw thorns at him at all any more.