As soon as the coughing started, Jonny knew there would be a problem. He sat in his seat slumped forward, head in his hands, deliberately averting eye contact with the flight attendant as she moved frantically up and down the aisle explaining that everything was going to be fine. It was strange that she hadn’t been affected given that she’d been standing next to him when the episode began. She was a tall thin woman in her mid twenties, and her long blond hair was pinned onto the top of her head in a bun. She had been dutifully scurrying around performing her pre-landing duties when she leant across him to open the window shade. The smell of her perfume had hit him like a sledgehammer. So beautiful was its citrusy scent that his heart started thumping and his loins began to stir. It was at that very moment that the lady sitting in front started hacking violently. That was followed by the entire row, and it wasn’t long before the vomiting started and the apparent lack of sick bags became a problem.
As he shifted awkwardly in his seat trying to concentrate, he looked every inch his 16 years. He was a small skinny boy whose stolen clothes were several sizes too big and hanging off him. Beads of sweat were now dripping down the sides of his freshly shaved head as he used all his mental strength to try and quell the impending disaster. He knew that if he couldn’t control his ability, the whole plane could be brought down. Luckily, it wasn’t the first time this had happened. It happened all the time back in the lab.
The lab had been the only place Jonny had known growing up, and he’d been as regular a boy as one can be when you have no memory of your parents and grow up in a science facility. Dr Milkin had been a father figure to Jonny, and the sight of his pale wrinkled face and long white lab coat had been reassuring once. But the onset of puberty had brought his abilities, as Dr Milkin used to call them, to the fore, and then things began to change. He soon figured out that Jonny was able to induce uncontrollable vomiting or coughing fits in the people around him.
It had originally seemed that anger brought out Jonny’s so-called talents, but it wasn’t long before Dr Milkin realised that fear was an equally powerful instigator. His torturous methods, the feeling of his long sinewy fingers holding Jonny down, and the sight of the doctor’s withered face and ghoulish smirk was enough to strike terror into the heart of any man, let alone a child. So, naturally, the test subjects unwittingly brought into the lab never failed to bring up their dinners. Strangely, however, Jonny’s abilities had never affected the Doctor.
Now, it seemed, an attractive woman had brought Jonny’s abilities into public view in a manner that was sure to attract attention. It was this type of attention that he had been so desperately trying to avoid since his escape.
As the plane touched down, Jonny peered out of the window nervously. The Captain had announced that they would be greeted by the emergency services upon landing, and Jonny could see the flashing sirens from an array of emergency vehicles. He also managed to glimpse several black SUVs idling there too. The tinted windows shielded the occupants from view, but he feared the worst. He concentrated hard on clearing his mind as he didn’t want another outbreak. He’d only just managed to stop the last one.
As the passengers disembarked and made their way down the steps, Jonny put his hood up, squeezed himself between a tall man and a rather rotund woman, and tried to shield himself from view. When he was halfway down the steps, he saw one of the SUV doors swing open, and, to his horror, Dr Milkin stepped out into the blazing sunshine. He looked up towards the steps and surveyed the scene trying to locate his favourite subject.
‘Not today.’ Jonny muttered to himself. ‘There’s no way I’m going back to that lab.’ The awful memories of his time as a guinea pig came flooding back and a rage started to build inside him. Jonny closed his eyes and clenched his fists. He tried to contain all his anger and fear inside an imaginary ball which grew bigger and bigger until it felt ready to burst. When he couldn’t hold it any longer, he imagined Dr Milkin’s ghostly face, and he thrust the ball towards him using all the mental force he could muster.
When Jonny opened his eyes, it was his turn to survey the carnage. Everyone around him was coughing and vomiting uncontrollably again, and the stench of bile in the air was overwhelming. He felt guilty for the scores of passengers writhing on the ground and looked towards the black SUV. He saw that the two other occupants were busily puking their guts out of the windows. Then, as he looked down, he saw Dr Milkin lying prostrate on the floor. He looked as though he’d been cracked open like an egg, and his entrails were sizzling on the tarmac.
‘Huh.’ Thought Jonny. ‘I’d only meant to make him shit himself. I didn’t want to turn his stomach inside out!’ He’d never considered he might be able to use his power to kill. It had always seemed like an embarrassing burden, but something was different now. Jonny felt a strange sense of serenity, and he was no longer worried about who was sitting in those SUVs. If anyone tried to stop him, he could strike fear into their guts and blow them up from within. He now knew that he had to control his power, but how? He hoped there was somebody out there who could guide him on this new adventure.