[Short Story] Searching

[Writing Prompt] Every morning you wake up with a new talent. The catch is, you aren’t told what it is.

Thirteen marks the start. From then on, each week a temporary talent is gained until it is either discovered or squandered. If discovered, permanent gain. If not, gone, never to be seen again.

John, the lucky bastard, discovered four days after his birthday that he gained the ability to be cool. Or rather, suddenly he knew how to speak to people. Kate discovered that she could draw. James gained the ability to build muscle quickly. Helena got pattern-recognition, her dad was quite pleased. He made a killing in the stock-exchange thanks to her.

I didn’t discover my talent on week one. Or week two. Or three. Or five. Or ten. Or fifty.

I was talentless Ryan. The kids made fun of me for it.

But Ms Holland took care of me. 9th grade English. I was never really good with words. But she helped me out regardless. I had entered Week 55. It was Saturday and I was about to procrastinate like I usually do. Talentless Ryan, all he’s good for is playing video games. But today, I had first opened the textbook Ms Holland gave me. How odd… Then again I am a creature of whims, it’s possible I could study on a whim.

Sunday, studied again, but this time I was able to absorb the information much better. I checked the scanner on my right arm, the illustrious talent checker… Showing [NULL] like always. No talents for Ryan. He doesn’t deserve them.

Monday rolls around and I’m on time. Everyone is surprised. Slacker Ryan not showing up fifteen minutes late? Impossible. But here I was, ready to learn. Maybe this is my new talent, being a punctual fuckhead. The scanner beeps in my backpack. If people weren’t looking at me before, they were full on smiling expectedly. Unzip, grab, turn on. Talent: Time Management I gape at it.

“Time Management, the ability to allocate time to complete tasks in an efficient manner.” John grabbed the scanner out of my hands. He then clasps onto my shoulder and hugs me. “RYAN THIS IS GREAT! YOU GOT A REALLY GOOD ONE!” Man this is awkward, I’m sitting and he’s standing. God, it looks like he’s humping my desk.

“Alright, alright, leave the kid alone. We’re here to learn.” Ms Holland smiles at me. Is it my imagination or did she look off? Like she’s about to fall asleep? When I asked her about it, she told me didn’t get much sleep last night. Kept sneezing and having to blow her nose.

On day four, five and six I set up drawing periods, writing periods, programming periods, planning periods, all in the hopes that if I gained any talent in those lines, I would lock it down. John was right, this is a good talent to have. When Week 56 rolled around, I woke up at 4 in the morning. No way am I going to let whatever talent I’m gaining up. 4 to 5, I draw. Complete shit. Moving on. 5 to 6, I write a story. Nope, no dice. 6 to 7, I plan out how I would give the best birthday party to Helena. Nada. 7 to 8, I run around the block. Well I ran for 10 seconds and I breathed heavily for the remainder of the hour.

8 to 9, I passively read the medical textbook, I’m able to retain everything I read. Am I a doctor? Is my talent science? I look at the scanner. No, it’s not science. Hmmm. I’m curious. There’s something here, I know it. I glance over the Shakespeare text I have to read for Holland’s class. I can understand it. Idioms and all. Is my ability to be able to understand language and its nuances? Scanner says no. Hmmm. What is it?

Day Three rolls around and I have no luck. I ask Holland about it. She asks me if my ability is to study. Maybe that’s it? Scanner says no. This is weird. She still has her cold. Damn, that’s one stubborn cold.

Day Five rolls around. I try to recall the medical textbook, and no dice. So it’s not photographic memory. Gah! What is it?

Day Six rolls around, maybe it’s the ability to understand how something functions? The scanner beeps. Talent: Understanding. Oh shit.

Week 57 rolls around and I’m the happiest son of bitch in the entire class. Talentless Ryan? Hah!

Day Three rolls around and I’m not sure what my talent is. Helena asks for help with the Shakespeare and I’m able to explain the text adequately to her. She nods and thanks me. Day Five rolls around and I’m not entirely sure what this week’s talent is.

The week ends before I can figure out the Talent. I sigh. Whatever it was, I hope it wasn’t a gamebreaker…

As the weeks race by, I gain the ability to fall asleep whenever I want and not much else. Still even if I don’t gain anymore talents from this point on, I think I’ll be good.

As the school year began to end, Ms Holland collapsed. The school kept saying that she was fine and that she was only dehydrated, but I didn’t believe them. I went to the hospital to visit her, wish I didn’t. There were so many tubes attached to her and she was inside a glass prison. The doctors said she had a rare viral infection that was fatal and highly infectious once it entered its final stages.

Please no… Ms Holland, this can’t be the way you go! I refuse! New Week. Whatever this talent is, it better be something that can help her survive! I spent all day on the “safe” side of the glass, reading the doctor’s notes on Holland’s illness. Each page I read, I gain more and more insight into the illness. I devour every medical book I can get my hands on. Every experimental medicines book I could handle. My new Talent revealed itself, persuasion. I was able to convince researchers all over the world to come help Holland. She was the first to believe in me, I refuse to let her die!

As the weeks drag by, her organs began failing one by one. I convinced Helena to pay for the medical bills in exchange I would have to work for him for five years as his analyst. I don’t care, Holland was the first to make me feel welcome in this world! I’m not losing that!

I gain pattern-recognition, political maneuvering, argumentation, eidetic memory as time dragged on. The chances of her survival getting slimmer and slimmer. I was finally able to make a vaccine, the youngest and fastest doctor in history. My parents were so proud, a doctor and I had bypassed Medical School entirely.

It should’ve worked.

But… it was too late. Holland was gone. I’m… It was all for nothing. Kate tried cheering me up over the days, but I refused to see anyone. I can’t… Ms Holland, why?

John was the first of us to show symptoms of the virus. The doctors took to calling it the Holland Virus. How dare they! I refined the vaccine. Made sure everything checked out. The government even gave me my own test subjects to fast track the clinical trials. I wasn’t head researcher. I wasn’t the best at this, but the researchers still respected my drive. I was single-handedly determined to make sure this goddamn virus was wiped from the face of the earth. Any mistakes I made, I learned from and the researchers were ready to help me along the way. beep The sound of the scanner goes off, but I don’t bother to check it. I have more important things to worry about.

The vaccine worked, but John was too far gone to be saved.


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