No sooner had Melissa asked her pseudo-uncle what the orb floating behind him was, than she noticed that he wasn’t moving anymore. Frozen in mid-turn, his mouth open to say something, the man could havse been a statue in one of those wax museums she had always wanted to walk through. Some part of her acknowledged the strangeness of that, but the majority of her attention was entirely centered on the curious ball with glowing hieroglyphics. She knew what this was. She did, right? The thought was there at the back of her mind, but, just like her worry about Uncle Isaiah, it wouldn’t come into her head. Every reaction, every thought, everything else was being pushed down, except for her curiosity about the orb itself. It was so interesting, that nothing else seemed to matter. Not even her own memories about what this thing was. Finally, her hand crossed the rest of the distance, pressing against the side of the orb.
And then, for the first time in almost as long as she could remember, Melissa wasn’t in her room. She stood in what appeared to be a completely empty landscape. The whole world around her was a dull gray, featureless place, surrounded by thick fog. There was nothing to see, and yet, it was one of the most joyous moments of her life. She was somewhere other than her room. She was standing in a new place, a strange and empty, yet delightful place.
And yes, she did know what this was. She had read so many stories and watched so many interviews about what finding one of these orbs was like, that the fact that she had not recognized it at first was baffling. It had to be an effect of the orb itself, the nine-year-old reasoned. The orbs obviously did something to make people who saw them not think about what they actually were. Or something.
Even as that thought came to mind, the girl realized she had started to walk. She wasn’t using her crutches, and yet she was walking just fine. It didn’t hurt. She didn’t feel that familiar ache in her bones from putting her weight on her leg. Looking down at her own feet with a choked noise of mixed confusion and delight, she thought about how her father had always looked when he watched her while believing she was asleep.
The moment that thought came to mind, she saw an image of her father standing in a doorway appear in the fog ahead of her. She saw the pain in his eyes, and the blazing anger behind them. Anger that he never willingly allowed her to see, but which she knew was there anyway.
She saw her own bed, the vials that were so important to her continued survival, other members of La Casa who had come and gone from her room, even her stuffed animals. All those images and more played through the fog as she walked. The images came faster and faster, finally bringing the girl to a halt as their rapid appearance made her dizzy. She stopped, eyes wide as she centered her gaze straight ahead, to where the rush of images was the brightest.
Abruptly, the kaleidoscope stopped, revealing a single image. It was the orb that she had just touched. That picture, hovering in the fog in front of her, became the only thing she could focus on, the only thing she could think about. Everything else fell away. Nothing mattered. Not her illness, not her father, not her stories. Nothing else but that orb. It was her entire universe for those few seconds.
And then… she heard the voice. The voice others had talked about. That single, female voice speaking two words.
With those two words echoing their way through her mind, Melissa reeled backward, only to find herself in the real world once more. She was still seated on the floor, but quickly rose to her feet reflexively, stumbling back a step.
Uncle Isaiah was moving again. His gaze snapped around. “What ball? What are you–” Then he looked at her, and his eyes went wide. A strangled noise of shock escaped the man as he jerked himself upright so quickly he nearly fell over. “The fuck?!”
“Hey now,” Melissa’s father chastised as he came through the door carrying a tray of food. “I didn’t think I was going to have to ask you of all people to watch your language around my–” Abruptly, he stopped talking, having just in that moment looked up from the tray. His eyes found their way to Melissa, and the tray fell from his hands. The food and bowls scattered across the floor, but the man didn’t pay attention to any of that. All he could do was stare at her, mouth open. A couple of times it looked as though he was trying to say something, but no sound emerged. All he could do was stand there and stare. Which, given who her father was and how much he had been through, was starting to scare the girl.
“U-Uncle Isaiah?” she blurted. “Daddy? What–what’s wrong? What?” In that moment, the girl caught a glimpse of something in the nearby wall-mounted mirror. Her gaze snapped that way, only to finally see herself the way her father and Isaiah did.
At first she didn’t see anything at all. It was as though she was invisible. But then she looked a little closer and realized the truth. She wasn’t invisible. Not exactly.
Her skin was gone. Or rather, transformed, along with the rest of her body. She appeared to be made of glass. Her face, hair, hands, legs, all of her. Even the clothes she wore had turned to glass. An intricately carved statue of it. Or of ice. It was so detailed, she could see her own expression staring back at her in the mirror. Her glass eyebrows rose, her glass mouth fell open, she could see her glass tongue. There were no internal organs to see. Her body was close to transparent, as it was possible to see straight through her to the other side.
As soon as she saw herself, the girl let out a squeal of surprise and jerked backward. She tripped over her own feet and fell. With a terrifying crash, her body shattered into hundreds of little pieces of glass that scattered across the floor.
And… and it didn’t hurt at all. Even as the sound of her father’s scream filled the room, Melissa could see him from hundreds of different angles. She saw the way he came rushing in, still in mid-scream. She saw and heard it from every shard of glass she had shattered into. It was… it was so strange. It felt weird, and yet completely normal at the same time. She could simultaneously see from every piece of glass, allowing a view of her father’s front and sides as he stopped right over where her body had been standing. Somehow… somehow she could see it all at the same time and it wasn’t confusing.
I wish I wasn’t broken. Then I could tell my Daddy I’m okay.
The moments that thought came to her mind, Melissa felt the individual pieces of herself rise off the ground. A gasp escaped both men in the room as the shards all floated into the air around them. They came together, spinning into a tornado. Through it all, the girl found herself thinking of her own form, the way she was supposed to be. And then the tornado stopped, and she was back. She was herself again, fully intact, as though nothing had happened. Well, as though she hadn’t fallen and broken apart, anyway.
“Daddy!” the girl blurted, even as her father let out a choked sob and grabbed her. He was as gentle as always, pulling her close carefully into what was, for them, a tight hug.
“Melissa. Melissa, baby, what happened? What–how did–what–”
So, she explained about how she had seen the orb behind Isaiah and reached out to touch it. “There were all th-the holograms and stuff like people said. Like you, and Uncle Isaiah, and the others, and the bed, and Inspector Guillotine, all of it, all of them. They were all there, and I saw them, and then the orb was there, and it said the words, and then I was back here. And I was like this.” Frowning uncertainly, she looked down at her own hand. Still made of glass. Her entire body was made of glass. In gaining powers, she had gone from a girl whose bones could shatter easily, to someone entirely made of glass. She could shatter even more easily now. And yet… and yet it didn’t matter. She had shattered. She had broken apart into hundreds of pieces from something as simple as falling. And then she had just come right back together again as though nothing had happened. Just like that, she was fine.
“Dad?” she finally managed, looking back up to find her father staring at her, still having not let go.
“I don’t think I need the medicine anymore.”
“Are you sure it’s okay, Daddy?”
Several hours later, after a lot of talking and even more experimentation, Melissa and her father stood in one of many large garages owned by La Casa. A dozen different vehicles, of wildly different makes, models, and colors, filled the space around them.
She was out of her room. She was standing in the garage with her father. She had been walking through the facility all day long. That, in and of itself, was nearly as big of a deal, as far as Melissa was concerned, as her newfound powers themselves. She wasn’t stuck in bed. She wasn’t trapped in that room. She could leave, walk around, talk to people.
Not that she ended up talking to many of them. Not yet, anyway. Her father didn’t want many to know what was going on with her for the time being. He simply ordered everyone out of any place she wanted to walk into. He had entire floors cleared so that she could move through them, looking at everything. For the first time in as long as the girl could remember, she wasn’t a prisoner of the disease that she had been infected with. She was free.
Walking without her crutches. Seeing things with her own eyes. Even touching them. And yes, she could still feel things. She wasn’t exactly sure how that worked, but it did. When she touched something, she could feel it just as though she was touching it with her old body. Except she didn’t feel pain. Shattering apart the way she had, while it had felt strange, hadn’t actually hurt. She could touch her father’s skin and know that it ‘felt like skin’, but when she touched fire (her own experiment, much to her father’s abrupt protest), it hadn’t burned her. She felt slightly warm, but there was no pain.
On the other hand, while she had retained her ability to see, hear, and feel (without pain), her senses of smell and taste were completely gone. She had stood in a kitchen full of baking desserts, and out by the dumpsters. Neither smelled like anything to her. She had attempted to eat one of those aforementioned desserts, but it… only resulted in a mess. She couldn’t eat or drink. And it hadn’t tasted like anything. She had her glass tongue, but no ability to taste.
With a fond smile at her question as they stood together in the garage, her father gave a short nod. “Have at it, Smelly. Let’s see what you can do, huh?” Now that he had been assured that she wasn’t hurt by any of this, the man was just as excited and intrigued as his daughter was by what she was capable of. There were, of course, other considerations and worries to come. But for now, he wanted to see what these powers actually meant. The fact that he used that teasing nickname (born of a combination of Small and Melly, for Melissa), proved how much he had relaxed since first walking in that room to see his daughter fall and break apart. Now assured that she was safe, he wanted to see what these powers meant.
To that end, Melissa took a deep breath (still uncertain as to how much that mattered), before spreading her arms out wide. With a grunt, she slammed them together. In that motion, she clapped hard enough that both hands shattered into dozens of pieces. Again, it didn’t hurt. But it did leave her with her hands and a decent portion of her forearms missing, ending in jagged stumps. In any other situation, that would have been horrifying, but Melissa knew better by now.
Just as before, she could see through all her individual shards. But now she was simultaneously seeing through her ‘eyes’ and through the different shards. As they lay on the floor scattered around her, she could see herself looking down at them. She could see her father too, and the cars that filled the garage. She could see through every shard at the same time.
But it was more than that. As the shards lifted themselves from the floor, Melissa could control and manipulate all of them separately. They were all her, all capable of being moved around independently, controlled by Melissa despite the impossibility of focusing on so many different things at once. She could manipulate, move, see through, and experience things through every shard as easily as she could within her own body.
Every shard of herself floated into the air, as she saw everything through all of them at once. Somehow, it didn’t overwhelm the girl, though she knew it should have. It just… worked.
With a thought, she sent the shards flying through the garage. A few went to each vehicle, hitting the windshield or windows. And as she held those shattered pieces of herself against the glass, Melissa felt a sort of… warmth. It was hard to explain it further than that, though she had tried when her father asked before, back when she had first done this with one of the mirrors inside. That feeling of warmth spread out from the shards she was controlling, through the windshield and windows, even through the mirrors on the vehicles that some of her shards had pressed themselves against.
The warmth spread and, after a few long seconds, she felt it. Control. She felt her control spread from the pieces of herself, out to the glass of the vehicles. Once she felt it, the little girl spoke a single word.
And with that, every window, every windshield, every mirror in the garage abruptly shattered as the glass broke itself into thousands of pieces, tearing its way free. Whether it was tempered or not didn’t matter. None of the specifics mattered. The glass broke apart into those thousands of shards, all of them flying over to form up around her. The glass that had been part of her flew to where the stumps were and reformed, turning back into her arms and hands. Again, as though nothing had happened. Meanwhile, the rest of the glass continued to float there, awaiting her commands.
She couldn’t see and feel through all of these pieces, not instantly at least. With a thought and focus, however, she could pick a collection of shards to see through, just as she saw through her own pieces. Sensing things through her own glass was automatic, but pushing her senses into other glass she was controlling took a bit more effort.
Focusing intently on the glass shards in front of her, Melissa watched as they obeyed her silent order by swirling into a tornado, just like when her own body had been reforming back in her room. The shards spun faster and faster, until it became impossible to make out individual pieces.
Then they stopped, and the glass wasn’t individual shards anymore. Every bit of glass from those dozen vehicles had joined together into an incredibly life-like recreation of a full-sized triceratops. At a thought from Melissa, the triceratops turned to look at them. And at another thought, she could see through its eyes. She could simultaneously look at her creation and look back at herself staring at it. With another silent command, the triceratops gave what looked like a little bow.
“Daddy… I made a dinosaur,” she whispered, almost afraid that if she spoke too loudly, it would shatter this dream and she would wake up back in her bed.
“Yes,” the man murmured, stepping over to put his hand against it curiously. “So you did. It’s amazing, Smelly Melly. Can you still see through it?”
“Uh huh,” she confirmed. “If I think about it and try. Wait.” Another few seconds of thought made the triceratops shatter apart into all those little pieces of glass once more. Just as quickly, they formed into three separate tornadoes that time. When the tornadoes cleared, there were three smaller animals standing there. One was a bear, another was a wolf, and the third was a miniature dragon, about the size of the bear, with a pair of long wings along its back and long claw-like talons that looked as though they could easily rip and tear through flesh.
Once the three animals were formed, Melissa focused. She found that she could control all of them to do what she wanted at once, though she was only capable of seeing through the eyes of one at a time. The others would obey her silent commands to the best of their ability, and in the absence of direct supervision, would simply continue attempting to follow her last order. She set the wolf to pacing in a circle around the garage, and it continued to do that even after she turned her focus to the other two. The bear was left lumbering forwards and backwards from one wall to the opposite, reaching up with one paw to pat the structure each time. When her focus turned away from it, the bear continued to do that.
Finally, the dragon was sent flying up to the ceiling, where it hovered and looked down at them. Seeing herself through its eyes, Melissa giggled a little. Delight filled her voice. “Daddy, I can make them move. Do you see?”
“I see,” the man confirmed with pride, his hands moving to squeeze her shoulders a bit. “They’re amazing, baby. You’re amazing.” Despite his words, and the fact that he did seem to mean them, there was a slight hesitation to his voice.
“Daddy?” Curious, Melissa turned her head to look up at him. The glass-dragon did the same, automatically. “What’s wrong? Did… did I do something bad?”
“No, no, baby,” he quickly assured her. “You didn’t do anything wrong. Never. You’re my angel.” Going down on one knee, he looked her in the eyes. “I was just thinking about how different things are now, and about how you’ll never exactly be… able to go out in public. You wanted to do so many different things, Mel. You wanted to see the world. You wanted to go skateboarding. You wanted to do all that stuff.”
She, in turn, smiled at him. He needed to see her smile, she was pretty sure. “I can do a lot of that stuff, Daddy. Now it doesn’t matter if I break, because I can just come right back together again. It doesn’t hurt. And I can still go see things if I’m careful. It’s just that now instead of being careful not to break, I have to be careful so people don’t see what I look like. Maybe I could wear a disguise, or–”
“Melissa,” her father interrupted suddenly, his eyes widening with surprise. “Look at yourself.”
She did so, directing the hovering glass-dragon’s eyes back to her. And she saw… well, she didn’t look normal, exactly. Her body was still clearly made of glass when she looked close. But there was color to it. Her pale skin color had returned, her eyes were back to being the right pale green, the long, slender strands of glass that made up her ‘hair’ had turned light brown to mimic the real thing. Even the glass that made up her clothes had shifted to what they should look like.
With the added color, she looked akin to a particularly realistic porcelain doll. When one peered close enough, they could tell that something was off. Her skin, clothes, eyes, all of it was just not quite right. Yet from a distance, it would probably pass a casual glance. Especially if she wore regular, real clothes on top.
Realizing all of this, Melissa found herself beaming. “See, Daddy? I really can go out and look around with you, and do stuff. But you know what?”
“What’s that?” Her father asked, running his hand over her head.
The answer came as she turned her gaze to stare at him. “There’s rules. You made them up yourself.
“So now we gotta think of a gambling sorta word-name that’s got something to do with glass.”