Read an Excerpt
We would have liked to be solving the mysteries of the universe, or at least the mysteries of our universe. In particular, we would have liked to be focusing on the recently acquired knowledge that, in addition to having a crazy younger sister, our missing mother had an identical twin named Queen. In super-particular, we would have liked to be focusing on the fact that Queen and her husband, Joe Ocho, had some offspring, number unspecified, that we had strong reason to believe were those ominous beings known as the Other Eights.
But we couldn’t do any of that, could we?
We couldn’t do any of that because (1) we were asleep, it being that time period ridiculously referred to as "the middle of the night"—ridiculous because dead in the middle of the period most people are asleep, night formally becomes morning; (2) we had something more immediate that was weighing on at least seven of our minds, even if those minds were currently slumbering; and (3) just as the clock turned over to 12:01 a.m. on July 1, seven of us were rudely awakened by the sound of "Hup one! Hup two!" shouted from below.
We tried to ignore it. We really did. Some of us needed our beauty rest, some of us needed that nighttime respite from the active duty of daily life to re-group for the next day, and one of us was still recovering from having a monthlong nervous breakdown over getting her power. But try as we might to ignore the shouts of "Hup one!" and "Hup two!"—not to mention all sorts of annoying pounding noises—after fifteen minutes we realized we’d never get back to sleep under these conditions, so we went to investigate.
We found Rebecca hanging by her arms from the chandelier.
Rebecca had on workout sweats, even though it was the dead of summer and the dead of night, and a sweatband around her head. As we watched, she used her arms to pull her body upward.
"What are you doing?" Annie demanded.
"And here you think you’re so smart," Rebecca said, chinning herself again over the edge of the chandelier. "What does it look like I’m doing? I’m doing pull-ups."
"But it’s the middle of the night," Georgia objected.
"Technically," Marcia corrected, "even though it won’t be light for another five or six hours, it’s morning."
Six of us stared at Marcia. We respected that she was the most observant among us, but she could be so annoyingly precise at times and we were cranky from being woken up.
"Sorry." Marcia blushed. "Sometimes I just can’t help myself."
"Middle of the night, beginning of the morning—who cares?" Rebecca said. Then she dropped to the ground and began doing pushups. "Hup one! Hup two!" We were shocked to see that Rebecca could push herself up so hard that she was able to clap her hands together neatly before beginning the next pushup.
Jackie was the fastest of us, in terms of sheer physical speed, but we were quite certain even she couldn’t do this pushup thing the way Rebecca was now doing it.
"I could see that you were doing pull-ups on the chandelier when we first came in," Jackie said in a reasonable tone of voice, "and I can see that now you are doing hand-clap pushups. Oops! You just switched to jackknife sit-ups—that was fast! But what I don’t think any of us understands is . . . why?"
"Hup one! Hup two!" Rebecca rose from the floor and began sprinting around the room, talking as she sprinted. We must say, our heads got a little dizzy trying to keep track of her progress. In particular, Petal grew very dizzy, as did our eight cats—Anthrax, Dandruff, Greatorex, Jaguar, Minx, Precious, Rambunctious, and Zither—who’d just entered the room, no doubt awakened by all the clatter and clamor Rebecca was creating. Well, Rambunctious didn’t remain dizzy for long because soon Rambunctious was sprinting along with her mistress.
"What I’m doing," Rebecca said, "which should be obvious, is getting myself in shape. You know—preparing my body to receive my power."
"You’re doing . . . what?" Annie demanded.
"Getting in shape, preparing my body," Rebecca said. "Did you not hear me the first time?"
"We heard you," Georgia said. "But you’re not making any sense. This is the middle of the night." Immediately after speaking the words, she raised her hand in Marcia’s direction in a stopping gesture. Georgia was right to do that, for Marcia’s mouth was already open to speak. "This is the very dark beginning of the morning and none of us sees any reason why you should be doing this right now."
"None of you sees." Rebecca sneered as she sprinted. "Of course none of you sees. But that’s because none of you was ready to receive her power. Annie didn’t even know she had hers until Georgia pointed it out. Durinda had to be shown a pro-and-con list for hers. Georgia didn’t figure out for the longest time what use hers was. Marcia’s gave her headaches. And Petal." Rebecca added a snort to go with the sneer and the sprint. "We all know how that turned out."
"You didn’t mention Jackie," Zinnia pointed out.
"No, I didn’t," Rebecca said. And then Rebecca gave Jackie a look of grudging admiration. "That’s because you’re different somehow. Your power of speed just came on you and you slid right into it as though you were born to it." Rebecca paused, then shrugged off whatever admiration she might have been feeling for another being. "Still, fitting a power like a glove is nothing like what it’ll be for me. Because I will be totally prepared, ready to embrace whatever may come."
"Oh, bother." Georgia rolled her eyes.
We couldn’t blame her. What Rebecca was saying was very eye-roll-worthy. Why did she have to be so melodramatic about this? In her own way, she was even worse than Petal about this stuff!
Rebecca finally stopped running.
"I think I need a high-protein snack," Rebecca said. "Durinda, make one for me, won’t you? There’s my good girl."
"I’m not your good girl," Durinda said, clearly highly offended, which proves it never pays to talk down to the household cook. "It’s the middle of the night." Durinda shot a look at open-mouthed Marcia. "It’s the beginning of the morning. My kitchen is closed."
"Fine." Rebecca shrugged. "I can make something myself."
Rebecca marched into the kitchen, Rambunctious by her side, and we followed behind. We may have been exhausted and exasperated, but we were curious as to what Rebecca would consider a high-protein snack.
Once in the kitchen, Rebecca opened the refrigerator.
"You’re not Durinda," Carl the talking refrigerator immediately objected, although he did sound groggy.
"No, I’m not, Carl," Rebecca said, removing a carton of eggs. "I’m prettier and smarter."
"I don’t know if I’d say all that," Carl said. "I only have eyes for robot Betty. But you are ruder. Durinda would never wake me in the middle of the night like this." Immediately, Carl added, "Sorry, Marcia, I mean the beginning of the morning."
Marcia closed her mouth as Rebecca closed the refrigerator door and Carl fell silent.
We fell silent too as we watched Rebecca take a glass from the cabinet, remove an egg from the carton, crack the egg on the side of the glass, drop the raw egg into the glass, toss the shell on the counter, remove another egg from the carton—
"What are you planning on doing with that?" Annie demanded.
"That is not," Durinda pointed out, "how you make scrambled eggs. When I scramble eggs I use a bowl, not a glass, to mix the eggs before pouring them into the prepared skillet. You haven’t even prepared the skillet!"
We could tell Durinda was really mad at Rebecca, probably because of that crack about being prettier and smarter. Also because Rebecca had presumed to tell Durinda to make her a snack and now she was making a mess of Durinda’s kitchen.
"That’s because I’m not going to use a skillet," Rebecca said, dropping the contents of yet another cracked egg into the glass. How many eggs did this make? Five? Six? More? We were tempted to ask Marcia, who had superior math skills, but we were too busy wondering what Rebecca was going to do with that tall glass of raw egg.
We didn’t have to wait long as Rebecca raised the glass toward her lips and—
"You can’t drink that!" Petal said, leaping forward in her granny nightie—Petal would wear a granny nightie, even in summer—and grabbing on to Rebecca’s arm. "That’s death!"
"It’s not certain death." Rebecca shrugged. "Only the threat of it." She tried to raise the glass to her lips again but Petal hung on tight.
"Petal’s right, you know," Zinnia said.
Petal’s right—those were words heard in our world as rarely as the words Rebecca’s right. Still . . .
"It is very dangerous to eat raw eggs," Zinnia went on. "Weren’t you paying attention in health class the last few years?"
"So?" was all Rebecca had to say to that.
"I didn’t save your life in France," Petal said, still hanging on to Rebecca’s raised arm, Petal’s feet not even touching the ground now, "only to have you throw it away by raw-egging yourself to death."
"I don’t care about any of that," Rebecca said. "I only care about getting my power and being ready for it when it comes."
Then, with Petal still hanging on, Rebecca managed to raise the glass the rest of the way to her lips.
It should have told us something, the way Rebecca was still able to raise her arm with Petal hanging on to it with her full weight, but it didn’t in the moment. In the moment, we were too mesmerized by the sight of Rebecca glugging back that entire glass of raw egg without stopping once.
When she was done, she put the glass on the counter. After Petal finally slid off her arm, Rebecca used the back of her hand to wipe the egg mustache from her mouth.
"See?" Rebecca smiled at Petal. "I’m not dead yet."
"Perhaps not, but you could be by morning," Petal said, at once out-darking Rebecca.
"Petal simply means by the time it turns light out," Zinnia informed Marcia, who had to shut her mouth once again.
"I don’t think I’ll be dead by the time it turns light," Rebecca said. "In fact, between all the exercise and the raw eggs, I’m feeling stronger already."
Then Rebecca cracked her knuckles—what an awful sound!—and tilted her head back and stretched her arms wide to address the heavens, or at least our kitchen ceiling.
"Universe," Rebecca called triumphantly, "I’m ready for my power! You can send it to me anytime now!"
"Oh, bother," Georgia said.
"The rest of us are going back to bed," Annie announced. "Are you coming with us, Rebecca?"
"I don’t think so," Rebecca said. "I haven’t done my deep knee bends yet."
"Suit yourself," Annie said. "But if you’re going to be saying ‘Hup one!’ and ‘Hup two!’ I think we’d all appreciate it if you’d whisper your hups. Just because you’re intent on being crazy, you don’t have to drag us down too."
"Fair enough," Rebecca admitted.
As seven of us trooped back upstairs, we could hear a whispered "Hup one! Hup two!" coming from below.
"Rebecca will be fine, right?" Petal said worriedly.
"Probably," Zinnia said.
"Raw eggs might easily kill another girl," Marcia said, "so I hope other kids at home never try that stunt."
"But Rebecca’s Rebecca," Georgia said. "A raw egg would be too scared to kill Rebecca. The egg would worry that somehow she could kill it back."
"Rebecca better clean up my kitchen when she’s done," Durinda said, "or I’ll kill her worse than any egg could."
"Durinda!" Annie admonished. "We never talk about killing one another, not even if we’re talking about Rebecca."
"I suppose I’m glad that Rebecca will not be another egg victim," Petal said. "But that wasn’t what I meant. When I asked if Rebecca will be fine, I meant when she finally gets her power. She will be, right?"
That’s when Jackie put her arm kindly around Petal’s shoulders and Annie said, "You’re kidding, aren’t you? Once Rebecca gets her power, I doubt any of us will ever be fine again."