I didn’t realize he was alive until a few minutes after I thought I killed him.
His fingers twitched and a pained groan escaped him. Relief washed over me at these signs of life, quickly replaced by fear. There was no hiding now. He knew.
I thought back to five months ago. I had been walking home from the munitions factory I was working at when I felt a jolt in my right arm. I looked around to see if I had been hit with something. Germany had surrendered two days prior and pockets of chaotic celebration were still popping up across England. No partygoers were on this street, it seemed. I shook my arm and continued my walk. It was twilight and a light rain was falling, intensifying the fragrant spring air. Soft, golden light and a sense of comfort emanated from the surrounding houses. Comfort and relief.
I turned a corner when another jolt hit my arm, the intensity of the shock causing it to swing out. Immediately after, my left arm followed suit. I stopped, looking around. The street was empty. A sudden sensation—similar to pins and needles but less obtrusive—came over my entire body, starting in my toes and slowly working its way up. Then it stopped as suddenly as it came. Maybe it was the physical stress of my job? Or the flu perhaps?
A month later, I realized that I could move things with my mind. I was removing a kettle from the stove when I stumbled and the handle slipped from my grip. Panicked, a combination of instinct and desperation led to a simple hand movement, motioning toward the stove. The kettle, inches away from crashing onto the floor, rose back up and placed itself back onto the burner. Two days later, I confirmed this ability when I willed a pen into my hand from across the room. The following week, I discovered that I knew what people were thinking. I couldn’t hear their thoughts exactly. Not word for word. I just got a sense of what was on their minds.
I kept this to myself, of course. My husband wouldn’t like it. His work at Bletchley Park was over—he was a linguist whose skills were highly sought after to help decode—and he was eager for us to settle back into our pre-war life. My working days had to be behind me. He put up with my job at the factory because it was for England but he was a traditionalist and wanted me back in my proper place—the home. Familiar with the heavy-handedness of his wrath, I was willing to resume domestic duties. We had yet to conceive but I knew he would soon be expecting children.
I was already mourning that brief taste of independence I had experienced at the factory. I was glad the war was over, of course, but I had spent that time proving to myself that I was capable of more than making dinner and darning socks. Women were expected to stand in for the men who were off fighting and we relished the opportunity. Not only did we fill factory positions, many woman were expected to ensure their family business continued running smoothly. Shopkeeping, farming, money handling, as men left to fight for our freedom, women took their place to fight for normalcy at home. We had all proven ourselves but how quickly our capabilites were forgotten.
During the following weeks and months, news of women from all around the world that were experiencing strange new abilities began to spread. Some were experiencing extremely heightened senses. Others had gained telepathic and telekinetic abilities, like me. But even those abilities varied. Some were only capable of moving small items a few inches and others were able to throw large objects across a great distance. As relieved as I was to find that I was not alone, I was as mystified as everyone else. Different theories started to emerge. Some thought it was a gift from god; others thought a gift from the devil. Some believed the abilities were extraterrestrial. One group of biologists suggested that it was a hastened evolutionary effect caused by the global stress of the war. These different beliefs influenced how the women were treated. In some parts of the world, they were worshipped. That was rare. Most countries viewed them as suspicious. As a result, I decided to stay hidden.
I looked at my husband, sprawled on the ground in front of me. A trickle of blood escaped a small gash on his forehead. I thought back to the conversation we were having ten minutes ago as we ate lunch. An article in the newspaper described three new institutions being built in America. Named Care Houses, they were described as “places of safety and respite for women burdened by these terrible new capabilities”. I wasn’t fooled. They were prisons. I made the mistake of saying as much. My husband’s face reddened angrily. He didn’t like when I had an opinion.
“You don’t think these women need to be locked away? What if they hurt someone? How can we trust them to care for their families? Children must be protected, for God’s sake.” I looked down, noticing the fading, yellow bruise on my wrist. I knew I should be quiet. Voicing an opinion meant getting another bruise. I should keep playing the role of subservient wife. To honour and obey. I didn’t have to use telepathy to sense his thoughts. He was seething with anger.
“I think men are afraid.” I don’t know what propelled me to say it. It was what I believed but there were many things I believed that I had learned to keep silent. His dark eyes widened and his lip curled in disdain. His quickly stood up from the table, knocking his chair over. Startled, I got up too.
“And what exactly are we afraid of, Eleanor?” He walked toward me, hand rising up. Before he could hit me, I focused my energy on him and willed him away from me. I had never moved anything as heavy as a man before. I didn’t even know if it would work. His body rose several inches and he flew across the kitchen, forcefully hitting shelves before falling to the ground.
What have I done?
As he started to come to, I thought about what this reveal would mean for me. What would he do now that he knew I was one of the women he viewed as dangerous? I thought about all the other women going through similar things, possessing this new power but unable to own it without repercussions. Would other governments follow America’s lead and attempt to lock us away? Any affection my husband might feel for me—and I had doubts whether it existed—would not prevent him from turning me over to such an institution.
I realized that staying hidden would never have been an option either. Something had changed in me. I couldn’t go back to the placid domesticity of my pre-war life.
I walked into the living room and grabbed my purse. I heard stirring in the kitchen.
“What did you do to me?”
I didn’t answer. Instead, I passed the kitchen and continued down the hallway. I walked out the front door into the cool autumn air.
Michelle Savage is a second-year Professional Writing student at Algonquin College who is hoping to turn her love of writing into a career. When she’s not buried in a book, she can be found on her yoga mat, on a hiking trail, or exploring one of Ottawa’s museums.