For once, Michael wished Colleen was home today.
Even if he didn’t directly tell her what had happened to him, he could at least get some sort of reassurance that he wasn’t going crazy.
Michael groaned loudly. What did it matter?
Colleen wouldn’t believe him if he told her. And if he showed her, she’d freak. It was a lose-lose situation in the end.
His bed creaked as he leaned back, both hands clasped together as his eyes locked onto the music player on the desk with clear apprehension. He had gone from pacing, to nervous nail-biting, to finally relaxing long enough to sit down and think about this sudden and strange situation.
If he wasn’t crazy, then it was a proven fact that only an hour earlier he had literally vaporized a soda can. And if he was surmising correctly, it all had something to do with the Jamiroquai music that had been playing in his ears at the time.
Michael leaned back more, sighing deeply and afro cushioning his head as he stared up longingly at the large Saturday Night Fever poster in his room.
“…what would Travolta do?” he asked himself. It was not everyday that someone discovered they had super powers.
Then a more appropriate question slipped into the afro-headed teen’s mind.
“…what would Rob do?”
Any other day, and Michael would have found himself drifting off once again to happy memories of Rob, only for it all to inevitably lead to the fact that was once again, Rob still wasn’t here with him now.
He wasn’t here when he needed him most.
Michael narrowed his eyes, shaking himself out of any depressing line of thought.
“No, no, not this again! I’m gonna figure this out.” he stated proudly, pushing away his previous fear before he scooped up his music player.
With the most serious expression he could muster, Michael diligently put on his headphones, his thumb hovering over the play button, ready to blast Canned Heat into his ears.
There was a only a second of hesitation before he pressed play.
The music came like a familiar traveler. Only this time, everything felt smoother and more calm, like the boat of anxiety Michael had been on had just sailed out of a deadly storm. He focused on the song like before, though this time without closing his eyes.
Michael desired control in his mind as he allowed the harmony to overtake him. A moment later, and he lifted up his right hand, to see it once again ablaze with the same shimmering mirage of red-orange heat.
It was oddly liberating to see it again. He closed his fist, and the heat responded by retracting slightly.
Michael then turned towards his wooden desk, his eyes landing on the lava lamp sitting innocently.
Curiosity seemed to get the better of Michael Kay as he opened his right palm towards the lamp. His mind visualized the pulsing heat riding along his arm to sound of the beat.
Like a blinding beam, it erupted from his hand, shattering the lava lamp completely on impact as the ray quickly began to burn at the wood below. Entranced by the light and Canned Heat’s lyrics playing in the air, Michael was only brought to his senses when he began to smell the burning wood.
He closed his hand shut. The beam stopped, but the heat aura remained, though once again restrained.
Michael approached, surveying the damage as he exclaimed in wonder.
“Hollywood Swinging! That did just happen, and it was totally awesome!”
His grin was all too wide now, as the power fantasy began to cloud his senses. This was becoming all too similar to the cartoons he’d grown up on.
But when the burning smell got stronger, and Michael really looked at the giant black scar of charred wood on his desk, his grin dropped.
“Oh snap.” he began, panic clear is in his voice. “Colleen is gonna kill me.”
Sure enough, whatever excitement was left for this crash course in Canned Heat was gone with the wind. The last thing Michael needed was for his sister to find out he damaged something in his room yet again, and for her to take an arm and leg from him for it in return.
“Arrgh, come on! I can’t afford this, man!”
Unfortunately for Michael, It would be a long night of scrubbing and all manner of cleaning for him to try in vain to rid his desk of the burn mark.
It distracted him enough that he had forgotten all about this newly discovered super power, even as sleep finally overtook him some time later.
“…Ugh, what’s that burning smell?“
“…Michael! Time to get up!“
“…really tired here!“
Since the events of the previous day, Michael’s hearing remained incredibly sensitive. He almost rolled off of his bed as he blinked awake, his eyes focusing on Colleen perusing around discarded clothes scattered on his floor.
She was also spraying some pretty heavy fragrance as she held her nose.
“Something really reeks in here. Did you break yet another lava lamp?”
Michael rolled back to one side.
“Ask me in an hour. Need more sleep…” he grumbled. His dreams had been wracked with wild colors and sounds, most likely a consequence of his experience with Canned Heat from yesterday.
“You do know that school starts today, right? I’m beyond wiped, so I’d appreciate if you got ready sooner rather than later.” she commented. In an instant, Michael jolted up like lightning had struck him.
“What!?” he replied, tumbling out of bed, his covers strewn about. He ran over to his Bee Gees calendar, frantically searching for the date.
Low and behold, Colleen was right. It turned out it was not two days from the start of junior year like Michael had thought. Yesterday had been the very last night of summer vacation. Michael cursed himself internally for his mental miscalculation.
Colleen seemed finished spraying as Michael reached for his afro pick and began sculpting his hair back to normal. Hours of rolling around in his sleep had turned it into quite the mess, and there was no way Michael Kay was walking into school looking so out of whack.
Out of the corner of his eye, he felt relief as he realized why Colleen had yet to blow up over the cause of the burning smell. Even in his tired state last night, he had managed to cover the burn mark with vinyls and clear out the remains of his shattered lava lamp.
Michael smiled awkwardly as he picked out his favorite tie dye shirt. “Oh yeah, weird smell, huh? I broke one of my records while I was reorganizing last night. Sorry about that.”
Colleen’s expression perked up at the thought. “You? Reorganizing? Good on you, little brother. Now try to make it to school on time today.”
Michael grinned wide as he looked at himself in the mirror. After only two minutes of delicate picking, his afro was perfect now.
“No worries, Colleen. I’ve got a good feeling about today.”
The first day of school seemed to fly by at light speed for Michael Kay. One minute, he was twiddling his thumbs and flicking paper footballs in homeroom, and the next, he was by his locker, staring at his music player with a very familiar apprehension.
New junior classes at Clinton-Collins High proved to be no distraction to Michael, who could only wonder of the potential damage that his once innocent music device was now capable of.
He had been so wrapped up in this Music Master business that he had ignored everyone today who noticed his hair, compliment or insult alike. He hadn’t waved back at those few students who remembered him from dance club, the one club Michael dared venture to since it gave him a chance to express his one hobby beyond music.
Everyone seemed like blurry shadows in a fog to Michael Kay.
Every person except one.
Perhaps the sight of him just annoyed her so much that she couldn’t stop herself. Or perhaps Kim was just in a particularly bad mood today.
Either way, the words slipped out from her lips, the absolute disdain for him very apparent.
“…the longer you stare at it like a moron, the better. Just spare me from hearing your terrible music…“
Once again, the words were faint, mumbled under her breath, but to Michael, they were astoundingly clear. It was the same voice from yesterday, the very same girl who had stared back at him after that can had hit him square in the face.
This was more than enough to break Michael’s concentration away from his music player.
No response. Kim just kept walking.
“Hey!” he then exclaimed, though Kim still didn’t flinch. “I heard that!”
She kept the same cold expression as she shoved the front door of Clinton-Collins High out of her way and walked down the steps, pushing aside a few students who were talking without even a hint of an “excuse me” or “sorry.”
Michael stuffed his music player in his pocket, running out after her as he called again out with exasperated breath.
“Hey! You’re the girl who threw that can at me!”
He walked quickly close behind Kim, the cogs having finally connected in his mind, albeit a day late. How could he have not figured it all out sooner?
Kim continued to ignore him, continuing to walk along as if he was nothing more than a bothersome insect. Her incredibly loud punk rock music blared in her ears, but luckily Michael was much more used to his enhanced hearing. Somehow, he was able to regulate the noise to the sidelines in his mind, much more focused on Kim herself.
“I can hear you, you know. I heard you dissing me!” he said, quite loudly now. As he followed Kim down the street, a few students on their way home noticed the obvious display. Two girls in particular began to whisper to each other as Kim passed, making the extra effort to get out of her way.
“Helloooooo? Anybody home! I know you can hear me!”
Michael was waving his arms with annoyance now, but nothing he seemed to do would get this girl’s attention. Nevertheless, the longer he walked behind her, the more he began to piece together who she was.
Thinking back, he had seen her more than once last year in school. She didn’t speak much, but he distinctly recalled the number of times she had been called on the loudspeaker.
Her name was Kimberly Ramone, if he remembered correctly.
Unfortunately, Michael was too caught up with recognizing Kim to realize she was leading him onto streets he didn’t recognize. The frustration was becoming clear on her face, and all this time there seemed to be fewer and fewer people around them as Michael tailed just a few feet behind her.
“You can’t ignore me forever!” he whined. Kim began debating options in her head, surveying her surroundings for witnesses. She was just about to give herself the all clear, when all of a sudden, a foreign sensation interrupted the sanctity of her music.
She felt a hand grab at her left shoulder. Kim gritted her teeth. Her personal space was under attack.
Michael, however, was too engrossed in answers to understand the situation he was in.
“Look, you said something yesterday. Something about Music Masters. Now just what the hec-“
She was so quick, and Michael was so unprepared. He felt her hand pull his away with surprising force, and Kim twisted his arm hard. He gasped, and before he even knew what was going on, Kim had him in a choke hold. Though he pushed back, Kim was clearly much stronger than she looked.
“Okay, Afroboy. That’s more than enough. You now have my full and undivided attention.” Kim announced, her arm closing in just a bit to make Michael cough audibly.
Nervous laughter leaked out as he tried to quell the violence.
“Kimberly, right? My name’s Michael. I think we were in English together once, maybe last yea-“
The rest of his words were replaced by a very high-pitched shriek. He felt the most awful pain as Kim pulled hard on the follicles of his afro, a now incredibly perturbed expression on her face.
He flailed wildly. Now was clearly the time to panic.
“Agh, damn it, DAMN IT! What did I do?” he asked, now on one knee and looking up at Kim as she simply stared back down in disdain.
“First of all, it’s Kim, and only Kim. If I have to repeat myself, this is only going to get worse.”
Michael smiled back, his best attempt at defusing the situation. “Yeah, Kim, I got it. Just watch the hair, okay?”
“It’s not my fault you decided to grow yourself such an obvious weak point. Now why would you go and interrupt my day? Your music bothering me wasn’t enough, huh? You’re really asking for it, aren’t you?” she threatened, but this only seemed to spark curiosity in Michael.
“And that’s another thing.” He interjected, lost in his own thoughts now. “How did you hear what I was listening to? Come to think of it, I can hear your music too…”
Kim pulled again, and Michael yelped. “This isn’t twenty questions. Get lost.”
Surprisingly, she let go, pushing him back though as she did. Kim paused for a moment, thinking that Michael was at least smart enough to retreat from a clearly losing battle.
Of course, she was quickly proven wrong.
Brushing himself off, Michael got up, albeit slowly, as Kim narrowed her eyes in a threatening manner.
She addressed him with clear dominance now. “We’re not going to have this discussion again, you hear? I don’t give a damn if you’re a Music Master; you stay away from me, or I uproot your hair like a tree.
And with that, Kim set down her skateboard, rolling off like nothing had happened. To her, it was easier to leave him looking like an idiot. Much less than work for her as opposed to kicking his ass, that much was for sure.
Meanwhile, Michael simply stood for a moment, very much dumbfounded.
She had said it again. Music Master.
She had very clearly said it again.
“Oh no.” Michael declared, starting into a run as he was powered by nothing more than his desire to know more. “You know something, Kim! And man, do I hate cliffhangers!”
But despite his running, Kim was far ahead, swerving past pedestrians with that same look of venom on her face. She passed by one of Michael’s classmates, causing the girl’s various papers to fly out uncontrollably from the sheer gust of speed
Michael could feel himself start to heave, and he stopped for a moment. Clearly, he wasn’t catching up anytime soon.
He reached for his headphones, suddenly feeling newfound confidence. Perhaps there was just enough time for him to catch up. And if Rob had taught him anything, then he wasn’t going to give up that easily.
“Don’t want to stop for me, huh? Fine!”
He pushed play, and Canned Heat boomed through his ears again. This time, however, the heat burned hot not only in his hand, but in his heels. As if by instinct, Michael burst forward with newfound speed, his feet seemingly gliding along the asphalt itself.
He could only wonder what people around him thought was going on. He silently hoped they thought he was on roller skates.
Really bright roller skates.
But as he watched Kim skate into a dim back alley, he didn’t think too much on it.
Something was going on with this Music Master business, and she clearly had answers.
Kim waited quite patiently as Michael caught up. She was almost a bit amused now. It was pretty surprising just how far this idiot was willing to go for information. He could practically be a First Beat at this point.
When Michael reached the alleyway entrance, she was none too shocked by the song effect quite literally hot on his heels. He belted out his words with sudden, overflowing confidence.
“Alright, Kim. You got two options. Either a faceful of Canned Heat, or you start explaining this Music Master stuff, now!”
Kim snickered. Sweat was obvious on Michael’s brow. “Hey! I’m serious! I’m not afraid to dish this stuff out, you hear!?”
She laughed out loud now. “I’m sorry, is this supposed to be a hold up or something? Are you high, Afroboy, or just really dumb?
Michael stepped forward, holding up his right hand, the red-orange heat shimmering with intensity. Kim seemed unfazed though.
“You’re funny. I’ll give you that.” she said, cracking a knuckle.
“Answers, Kim. Now!” Michael declared, but his voice was shaking. And once again, Kim moved faster than he could hope to react.
Her elbow crashed hard into his nose, and Michael felt the blood rush out as Kim’s entire weight hit him all at once. Though she seemed like a lithe girl, she packed way more punch than he could ever expect. He sank to his knees, grabbing his nose and trying to stifle the dripping blood, eyes wide from both shock and pain.
“How’s that for an answer, you little asshole!” she screamed, anger finally breaking through.
Michael could only reply with a nasally tone as he continued to hold his nose. “Ah man, you broke it! You’re crazy, you know that? Man, my sister’s gonna milk the hell out of me for this!”
Kim was having none of it now. “Oh shut up. I know when I’ve broken something. Count yourself lucky this time.
For the first time since their encounter started today, her fingers moved for her music player. Slowly, she clicked fast forward, moving on to a new song. Michael hadn’t been really paying attention to the music before, but he definitely was now.
The loud strum of an angry guitar filled the alleyway, as Kim made a sick smile. Dark forces began to materialize around Kim in response to the song, and Michael could only look back it in total awe. It was one thing to witness his own song effect, but to see someone else’s was something else entirely.
My Chemical Romances’s cover of Desolation Row practically exploded onto her, and Kim’s eyes turned a liche purple as massive claws sprouted over where her hands once were. Kim took in the sound like it was her lifeblood.
“This is what you get for playing tough guy with me.” she told Michael, her voice now warped and garbled from the song effect that had overtaken her. “And trust me, you’re not the first.”
Michael blinked, eyes wide.
Clearly, the situation had now gone from bad to much, much worse.
Thus, there were a great many thoughts flooding through Michael’s head in the next brief moment.
She was a Music Master? Well, his life was pretty much over now, it seemed.
Perhaps, if anything, Rob might at least show up to his funeral.
But as he counted his incoming death, the most important thought surfaced above all others.
She was Music Master.
Just like him.
This was it. This was his ticket.
Michael knew he had only one option left. He had to act fast. Everything was at stake here.
And so with great courage, he put his hands up.
“Alright, I give. I totally, completely surrender. I’m just…I’m just super confused.”
Somehow, Kim didn’t shred him into pieces in the next moment.
Thankfully, Michael had guessed correctly; though she would certainly hurt him, she was no killer. She was slightly taken aback by all this, but nevertheless, her song effect only lessened to the point where her eyes returned to normal, her voice a normal volume, and she allowed only one of her dark-force claws remain.
He continued, trying his best to sound as genuine as possible.
“I don’t get it. What is this, X-Men? Music equals super powers? It makes no sense. Is that what I am? A Music Master? Is that what we are?”
Kim put her hand to her forehead, the irritation getting to her now.
“What do you think, you idiot? It’s not incredibly obvious by now? You can’t lack this many brain cells.”
Michael sighed in response. “I’m not really good with the obvious.”
This was his chance to appeal to her better nature. If Kim had one at all, that is.
“Look, all I’m asking for is some help. I don’t want to die one day because I decided to listen to Thriller. You seem like you know what you’re doing.”
He put on his best grin. It never worked with Colleen, but it was worth a try. “So…got any pointers for a newbie?”
Kim gritted her teeth, debating on clocking him in the face and ending this problem right now.
Unfortunately, there was something about that smile that stopped her. It was so familiar, to the point where hitting him, at least in a defenseless state, would feel wrong.
She opted on moving her headphones down to her neck, and by doing so, her hand returned to normal as the song ceased to play in her eardrums. She wasn’t lowering her guard, of course. Kim was one hundred percent sure she could easily take him, song effect or not.
“Okay. This stopped being my problem, right now. I’m not playing tutor for you, Afroboy.”
“It’s Michael! Michael Kay!” he protested, but Kim was done listening. She was already at the curb when he called out to her.
“So that’s it, huh? You’re just gonna leave me like that? Leave me with nothing?”
Finally, Kim could take it no more. Michael was biting at her patience now. She whipped around, barking back at him like a cornered lion.
“Yes, Michael. That’s exactly what I’m going to do! People get left with nothing all the damn time! Get used to it!”
That was enough to get Michael to shut up. Not even bothering to check for traffic, Kim put all her weight on her skateboard and started on her way. Less than ten seconds later, and she was around the corner, and as good as gone.
If there was anyone around to hear her roar back at him like that, they certainly didn’t seem like they cared.
And so, alone by the alleyway was Michael Kay. His nose was still bleeding, but he had forgotten about the pain now.
That was nothing compared to the awful, sinking feeling in his belly. His one ticket had up and left, leaving him with nothing more than a painful, bloody parting gift.
Music Master or not, Michael was totally and completely alone.
And right now, he couldn’t imagine any song in the entire world good enough to make this horrible feeling of emptiness go away.