read the suite from the beginning

by Christopher R. Muscato

#Radiate #SeeTheTruth #BrightGirl

“Hey Bethany, you see this story about the girl in California whose voice blew up a diner?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“They’re saying she was sexually assaulted by her manager.”


“That’s what he get, picking on a girl like that. Damn, this says she didn’t even know she had powers until that day. Number of y’all out there is growing.”

Bethany just nodded in response. She hated the word. Powers. Like it really changed anything. Like power meant anything at all. Not for people like her. 

“Oh, this week’s the anniversary isn’t it? Hey I’m sorry, Beth-”

Bethany waved off her friend’s apology. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll catch you later, alright?” As Bethany packed her bag, her friend’s phone kept blaring news about the story. More women were inspired to speak out and name their attackers since the California incident. They said it was the start of a movement. Bethany rolled her eyes. 

At the church, Bethany lit a candle. The young man in the photograph smiled confidently. The man in that photo had a lot to be confident about. Not the man now buried in the cemetery behind the church. Twelve bullets to the back. The killer still out there. Protecting and serving. 

“Nice to see you here, Bethany.”

“Hi, Momma,” Bethany said quietly, sullenly. 

“One year ago, today,” her mother said, gravely, announcing the passage of time like the arrival of a ruthless emperor lording over a conquered land. “He’s still with us.”

“Yes, Momma.”

“He’d still want you to use your powers, you know.”

“Yes, Momma.”

“Bethany Lynn Marshall, don’t you take that tone with me. You and your brother’s powers were gifts from God. Neither of you were meant to hide it.”

It was power that got Tray killed. The boy shone like a beacon, radiating with light. Can’t have a black man with a power that demands so much attention. His power wasn’t something that could be ignored or denied. And he refused to hide it. So they snuffed it out. This was what Bethany knew. A white girl could scold the United Nations, but a black man with power had to be silenced. Bethany chose not to say anything, out of respect for her mother. They stood without speaking, observing the picture of the young man. Observing his confidence. 

“Just one time?’” Her mother asked finally.

Bethany sighed, and turned to look directly into her mother’s eyes. She searched her mother’s mind, found the memory. Bethany’s eyes glowed, and suddenly Tray stood before them. The whole Marshall family was there, flickering projections that strode around the room. 

“Happy birthday, Momma!” Tray crowed, signing and dancing as he presented his mother with a bouquet of flowers. The ghost image of their mother clapped and laughed, and ghost Bethany joined in the celebration as well. The glow from Bethany’s eyes faded, and the memory disappeared from the room. Bethany’s mother wiped a tear from her eye. 

“Thank you.”

Bethany was alone that night. She had made sure of it. Her small and cramped apartment, sparsely decorated, felt like a desolate island, Bethany its sole occupant, marooned in its infinite darkness. She sniffled and rubbed her nose with her sleeve. One year. Her mother’s request was the first time Bethany had visited a memory of her brother since his death. She brought the memory to life, and now she thought the pain might kill her. 

The tears were flowing freely, streaming down her cheeks faster than her sleeves could carry them away. Her breath caught in her throat, escaping in short, punctuated gasps. She longed for her brother. She longed for his words. She longed for his memory. 

Bethany fought the urge. She fought. And fought. And then she could fight no more. In a single, swift movement, she jolted upright, gripping the edge of her bed with strained knuckles and stared into the mirror, interrogating her own eyes. Her retinas started at first to glow, and the glow intensified until there seemed to be fire pouring from her gaze.

In her room, a flicker, an impression of a man, and then her brother materialized. He paced for a moment, and then sat down, facing her directly. This was her last memory of him alive.

“I gotta get outta here, Beth,” the boy said softly. “This place is killing me. I don’t know what else is out there, but I know it’s not this. There’s something more, and I don’t know what it is or where I’m going to find it, but I am. There’s truth, you know? A truth out there. Ain’t nobody giving it to us, and I’m tired of asking.”

Bethany wiped the last tears from the corners of her eyes. The glow diminished. The fire remained.

“Well, where’d they all come from?” The police chief asked, his voice gruff. He adjusted his belt irritably as he shuffled around the station. “That Marshall case was over a year ago.”

“One year last week,” the deputy replied. “We think that’s what started it. The anniversary.”

The police chief grumbled something unintelligible and jerked his head towards the front door. The deputy jostled after him. As they exited the station, they were met by throngs of protestors, shouting, waving signs, crashing like an angry sea around the police station. The word murderer rang from somewhere in the crowd. 

“The officer in question was found to have acted in self-defense,” the deputy began to shout, searching the crowd for the offending accuser. The police chief stuck out a hand and silenced the deputy. He quietly surveyed the scene until his gaze landed on a young woman at the front of the main column. Her eyes seemed almost to radiate authority. He walked up to her.

“What do you want, Ms. Marshall?”

“Just one thing. The officer who shot my brother.”

“What about him?”

“I know what your internal investigation found, sir. All I’m asking is a single courtesy. Just let me look him in the eyes.”

back to the 2020 FLASH SUITE Contest
home/ Bonafides

Facebooktwitterlinkedinrssby feather
Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

Leave a Reply

Welcome to
Defenestrationism reality.

Read full projects from our
retro navigation panel, left,
or start with What’s New.