Henry was an ordinary eleven-year-old boy. He was quiet but sweet and kind to everyone. All his school friends knew Henry was a loyal friend who would never gossip or say anything negative behind their backs. Since Henry was a quiet child, his parents always assumed everything was fine. They never saw Henry express anger or frustration at anyone or anything. Henry’s mom Rebecca bragged that Henry was the perfect baby. He slept through the night, and in the daytime he was brought home from the hospital and never fussed.

One Tuesday Morning Henry woke up to the sound of his mother’s screams. He ran downstairs to the kitchen only to see his mother stirring her daily cup of hot water mixed with honey and lemon. But tears fell down her face and even though her mouth wasn’t open, Henry still heard his mother’s voice in the ugliest most peculiar way possible shout, “I hate him! I want to kill him. I hope that bastard dies in his sleep.” Henry shuddered in fear. He’d never heard his mother’s voice sound so angry or experienced anything like this before. 

“What’s wrong? Did you have a nightmare last night?” Henry’s mother asked stroking his hair. The other voice suddenly stopped.

“No. No nightmares. Everything’s okay now.”

“Thanks bud. Can you put the plate on the table for me. Your sleazy father can’t help for anything.

Henry grabbed the dishes from the cabinet and walked to the dining room where his father sat at one end with his nose deep in the city’s paper. His sister Lucy sat in her high chair at the other end playing with her fingers. As Henry leaned in to give his father a plate he heard in another ugly voice that he barely recognized as his fathers,

 “That’s it. That’s why I’m leaving. How am I supposed to be the one who puts dinner on the table and still get called sleazy. Sheri knows my worth. She would never call me that.”

“Who’s Sheri?” Henry asked without thinking.

“Who’s who?” His father said looking shocked.

“Nothing. I didn’t say anything.”

Henry’s father diverted his eyes back to the newspaper and Henry heard his father say “ I didn’t say anything out loud. Did I? I need to start being more careful around the kids. Their mother would kill me if I told them before the papers were finalized.” Henry thought, “What papers.” Then he heard his sister in a sweet kind voice babbling the ABC’s. He held on to the sound of her voice until his mom yelled that the bus was outside. The ride to school was horrid. He listened to fifteen minutes straight of Sally crying “Why wasn’t I invited to Maggie’s birthday party when I invited her to mine.” Then he heard Maggie whisper, “I want Sally to come but my mom doesn’t allow Blacks over the house.” Then he heard Allen stress “If I don’t get an 99 on this next paper my grade will be demoted from an A plus to an A. If that happens I am never getting into Harvard.” After that Henry focused on Driver Mike’s hum to a rock song he didn’t know until the bus finally arrived at school.

First period was a disaster. The teacher instructed the class to do a five minute free write on “What came first? The chicken or the egg?”. The constant movements of thought clashed and weaved inside Henry’s head. He put his hands on his ears and screamed “Shut up! Everyone please stop talking. I cannot take anymore of it.” The class and the teacher looked up very perplexed. This was a silent free write and no one was talking. Henry realized his mistake and said, “I’m sorry. I have a migraine and need to go home.” The teacher took him to the nurse’s office at once and when his mom came to pick him up she could hear her yelling,

 “Today of all day’s the kid calls out sick. I can’t catch a break.”

“I’m sorry mom.”

“Sweetie you have nothing to be sorry about.”

The ride home was mostly quiet except for his mother’s random thought “I want him out tonight. I can’t keep hiding it from the kids. It’s eating Henry alive. The little boy never acts out in school. He’s never even sick.” When his father arrived home from work his mother said “We’re doing this now. No more dancing around the truth.”

“Son, your mother and I are going to start living apart. We don’t love each other but that doesn’t change the love we have for you and Lucy.”

“I know. You’re getting a divorce.” Henry said.

“We are.” Henry’s mother said and he heard a small whisper “It’s like he already knew. I guess he sensed it.”

“I didn’t sense it mom. I hear you and I hear everything. Good luck keeping secrets now.” Henry thought and wanted to say but he let the words stay trapped in his mind. He promised himself to  never to tell anyone about his new ability. “I’m a freak” he thought, and let the word bounce and ricochet against the sides of his mind. With each second, the echoing vibrations became even more intense. He held the secret inside himself and promised not to tell anyone. Not ever. Henry never wanted superpowers. He was happy with his ordinary life and hated the disruptions. But he accepted that the universe had chosen him and that it was his duty to carry the weight.

Writer | Carolyn Thomas ’23 |
Editor | Sarah Wu ’25 |
Artist | Haoran Tong ’23 |