Read an Excerpt
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was deathly afraid of thunderstorms. She was a lovely child, with fair skin and long auburn hair that dangled down to her waistline. She was also very brave. With the exception of one specific phobia, there is nothing she wouldn't do or try. Unfortunately, the fear of thunderstorms was so intense for our maiden, it nearly consumed her existence. Whenever a dark cloud would drift aimlessly in the sky, she would drop everything and promptly seek shelter. She became an expert at avoiding all forms of precipitation.
On this particular Saturday evening, the sky was a familiar shade of ugly. Thunder and lightning alternated repeatedly. True to her nature, the girl hid spinelessly in the safety of her room, under the blankets of her comforting bed. Each time a bolt of lightning flashed across the night sky and lit up her surroundings, the girl shuddered and buried herself deeper into her pillow. Her hands covering her ears tightly, she let out yelps of terror as the rumbling of the thunder followed closely behind. She was totally terrified.
Only, this girl wasn't so little. She was actually a whopping 15 years old. And she wasn't a lovely maiden with fair skin and long hair. In fact, she only needed one adjective to describe her: plain. She was me, Faye Grace Martin, your friendly neighborhood girl-next-door turned not-so-normal Fairy God Mother.
“Holy crap!” I gasped at the sudden vibration trespassing into my deep thoughts. It was my cell phone, telling me I had a text message.
I reluctantly reached my hand out from under the blanket and started feeling around blindly on my nightstand. A chill filled the air and I immediately had goose bumps on my arms.
“Hang the heck on,” I hushed quietly. I believed talking too loudly would only disclose my location to the evil sky gods (who, by the way, were intent it on destroying me via lightning strike).
I fumbled around some more, finally grabbing my phone and swiftly bringing it under the covers. It was Diane. But I already knew that.
Are you still hiding? She wrote Yup, I typed back. Can't talk right now. U know how it goes. Will call you when it's over.
I pressed the send button firmly and placed my cell back onto the nightstand as I curled up into a little ball. I was shaking.
Geez! Another intense strike followed by an earsplitting grumble. It was as if they were getting closer to me. Oh, in case you're wondering, singing about a few of my favorite things doesn't help at all in situations like these. Actually, I had tried every trick in the book to get rid of this miserable phobia but it's actually quite hard (read: impossible) to be cured of a curse. No, really. I was totally cursed. I had absolutely no doubt something or someone was trying to kill me. Their weapon of choice was a high voltage bolt of electricity. Scary.
My heart stopped in my chest and I jumped again.
“Grrrr, Diane! I said I can't talk right now,” I whined as if she could hear me. I grabbed my cell phone in annoyance and read the message under the blanket again.
I need u, she wrote.
Can't it wait?
No, it's urgent.
Sigh. It was always urgent. This was so typical of Diane. She was one of those high-maintenance friends. You know those people, the ones who always need you the most when you are going through something of your own? Yeah, that was Diane all right. She was the prettiest girl in school and accustomed to getting her way. I was probably the only person who had ever told her 'no.' Though, even I didn't do it that often. Normally, I would be there for her in a heartbeat. But, as I said, she always had the worst timing imaginable. She knew how I felt about lightning, yet here she was, telling me she needed me for something.
What's up? I wrote.
I'm on a mission. I need u 2 help me.
What's the mission? I'll only help u after this stinking storm's over.
NO. I need the storm.
Because I want to go to Camp Milestone too.
Forgetting everything, I abruptly sat up in my bed and sighed, deeply, frustrated we'd come back to this same argument again. At that moment, I caught a glimpse of my own anxious reflection in the mirror as a lightning bolt lit up my room. Here comes the thunder, I knew. But I didn't care as much this time.
WHAT?! I typed a few seconds after my hands had stopped shaking. Although I pretended to be, I wasn't very surprised. How many times did we have to go over this?
C'mon Faye. Just help me with this.
NOOO!!!!!!! I typed angrily, knowing enough exclamation marks didn't exist to adequately portray my feelings. Are you crazy? It's absurd!
Ugh. This argument was so stupid. Why were we even texting? This was most definitely phone conversation material. Furious, I violently pounded the numbers on my cell phone, then waited impatiently as her phone rang. My muscles tensed, I began talking out loud.
“Pick up. Pick up. Pick up. Pi-”
“Diane! What the hell are you thinking? Are you absolutely nuts?”
“Quit freaking out. It makes so much sense. Don't you want me at Milestone with you?”
“It's not that easy. You don't understand. You'll get killed. It's not like getting shocked by an electrical outlet you know. It's like …dying!”
“So you don't want me at camp with you?” she accused.
BOOM! I trembled again and sunk back under the blankets.
Argh! Why was she so annoying? And why was I so pathetic when it came to thunderstorms?
“Of course I want you to come to Camp Milestone,” I answered accommodatingly, trying not to be patronizing. “It's just, well, I want you to live too.”
“I won't die,” she said. Her ignorance further infuriated me.
“Diane!” I shrieked my tone filled with rage. “It's lightning! LIGHTNING! You are so going to die. Stop being so selfish!! Now get your butt back to your house and quit being so immature. We'll talk about this tomorrow. We'll find some other way for you to get to Camp Milestone, ok? I promise. Hello? You still there?”
It was not what she wanted to hear. We'd hashed over this argument for a year now. Thankfully, I had prevailed every time because she was secretly afraid of getting struck. Frankly, I didn't blame her. I knew the pain of a strike made you want to die…. if you survived, that is.
“Yeah,” she sighed huskily. “I'm still here.”
“You know I'm right, Di. Just let this go. Please”
“Fine. You're right.”
“Thank you,” I said as my body relaxed a little. “Now I need to go hide. Can we talk about this tomorrow?”
“Ok,” she answered glumly.
We said our goodbyes and hung up. To my surprise, guilt overwhelmed me as I slumped further into my sheets. Why did I feel like I was betraying her? I was only protecting her. So why did I feel like such a bad friend? I wished I could help her, but I knew there was no way. It's not like I made up the rules or anything.
You see, as I mentioned before, I'm not exactly normal. In this crazy and mysterious world, a special few get struck by lightning and survive without a scratch. Okay, that's not entirely true. They do get a particular “scratch” or rash called a Lichtenberg figure, which somehow symbolizes their hidden identity as a modern-day fairy tale character. Are you following me? I know it's hard to imagine, but it's true. Fairy tales exist. As in here. Now. In your world. The characters could be your best friend, your neighbor, your mother. They could be you.
How do I know this? Well, not only did it happen to me last year, but to a bunch of my friends too. Yup, I'm best friends with Cinderella, Snow White, her Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio and Sleeping beauty. And I'm actually their Fairy God Mother. Their “FGM” if you will. We discovered this secret world after attending Camp Milestone last summer. Camp Milestone is the worst and best camp ever. It's run by a guy named Chester, a young guy, who may just be the modern day Mother Goose and whose purpose in life is to help us campers fulfill our fairy-tale destinies. We all attend this camp to discover our true identities, and then spend the rest of our lives fulfilling our destinies and figuring out why our existence matters in the world. Because, as of yet, it didn't seem like the world even knew we existed. Camp Milestone was a top-secret camp, and our presence was also a very well-kept secret.
“Are you friggin' kidding me?” I bellowed. She had texted me again.
I'm going 2 the park. Either you're with me or you're against me.
OMG. I am so against u. You're kidding right?
Ugh! My body tensed up again but I quickly collected myself. This night officially sucked. I know what you're thinking too. If I've been hit by lightning once and the FGM in me has been turned on, then why was I still so afraid of it? It's hard to explain. It's a sense I had, that I was supposed to get hit by lightning over and over and over again until I was dead. Like they were attracted to me or something. It's a phobia, OK? It wasn't supposed to be rational.
Am not kidding F. This is happening. Deal with it.
U r going 2 get killed! U r going to get killed! U r going to get KILLED!!!
Maybe if I repeated it obsessively, the message would sink in her bullheaded brain. She had officially lost it. Seriously, why was she being so selfish?
I waited impatiently for a response. Tapping my feet and wringing my hands, it didn't take me long to grow more frustrated. It was as though a steel fist had clutched my throat. She was acting like a child. You didn't just want to get hit by lightning. You avoided it. Like the plague.
I redialed her number; she didn't answer. Wonderful. She was fully ignoring me now. How mature.
I began to type again, my fingers leaving little prints on my phone.
Why aren't u answering your phone?
A few moments passed silently. Finally, she wrote.
Cuz this is happening. I'll be at the park. Come if u care.
Come if you care? What a typical Diane response. What about me? Didn't she care about me? Didn't she care that she was asking me to do something that scared the crap out of me?
NO!! U R being stupid! Stupid, stupid, stupid!
I dialed her again, knowing all too well she wouldn't answer. God she was just so dense. And stubborn!
Diane please, I pleaded in desperation. I don't want to lose you.
You're not gonna lose me. Especially if you get down here and help me out. I don't really know what I'm doing.
What? Down here? Was she there already? Was she serious this time? I rolled my eyes, leaned back and smacked my head against the bed post.
I'm not helping you kill yourself. I wrote back reluctantly.
I suspected she was playing chicken which meant I had to find it in me to out-stubborn her. I hated this game.
The next few minutes of silence felt like an eternity. On one hand, I wanted to be a good friend, run out my front door, and stop her from making the biggest mistake of her life. On the other hand, I was so mad at her. She was being so typically her selfish and self-involved.
“C'mon ring! Buzz. Do something,” I willed to my cell phone.
I smiled and sighed. Phew. Thank goodness. She had come to her sense. I clicked on the “read message” button.
Do I have to use an all metal shovel or can it have some wood on it too?
Oh, crap! I sprang up from my bed, threw the sheets off and scrambled to find my shoes.
“She's crazy! She's freaking crazy!!” I yelled in a haze of fury and panic.
I surveyed my room. I located my Converse shoes and came to a halt. The last time I'd worn those shoes, life had taken a dramatic and unexpected turn for me. Did I dare wear them again? Diane's life was in jeopardy. Yeah, I dared. Hysterically, I dialed her number one last time. Naturally, she didn't pick up.
Ok. Am ready. Next time u see me, I'll be a fairy-tale person too. Can I pick who I wanna be? If yes, I wanna be the princess and the pea.
I don't know what exactly happened next, I just know I had somehow made it out in to the rain and I was running as fast as my legs could take me. And yes, I was wearing those Converse shoes.
I just couldn't escape it.
Panting heavily, I continued to dial her phone number. I made myself run faster….. and faster still. I needed to get there. Like yesterday. Another rumble sounded above me. I didn't care. Screw the lightning. Screw the storm. Screw everything. This was a matter of life and death. I wasn't about to let my best friend die.
I ran up the hill and entered the park I had tried so hard to avoid. The same place I'd been to exactly one year prior (and a million times over in my dreams and nightmares). The old drive-in theater, the wide open field, the big oak tree that sacrificed a few of its branches in tragedy. And standing in the middle, like a delicate movie star, was my (stupid) best friend, holding a shovel up to the sky.
“Diane!” I called out, but my voice stuck in my throat. My breathing accelerated and suddenly, the atmosphere became quiet. I kept racing towards her, sliding on the wet grass and briefly falling on all fours. Undeterred, I rose up, continuing my mad dash. She looked so innocent, yet her silhouette gave her away; she was scared to death.
Suddenly, doom crept over me and I panicked. The sky was charging up. My eyes grew wider and my pupils dilated as the backdrop darkened further. It was going to happen. I knew it. The lightning was going to strike her any second. I had to make it. Keep running. Keep running. I was almost there. Just a little further.
Then, just as I approached her from behind, I looked up and caught the flash. There it was. Just like before. Zigzagging purposefully toward its destination.
“NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I screamed as I lunged forward.
But it was too late.