Joey Huff’s parents, the only parents he’d ever known, were childless, near 50, with little exposure to children when they brought him home from the adoption agency. They were so happy that they spoiled him from the get-go and, from an early age, he was spoken to more as an equal than as a pre-adult needing management.
The downside: there were no raucous birthday parties, no gatherings at all, no joining young people’s leagues, all of which led to his feeling older and “different.” Later, when he thought about graduating from high school, about one day marrying and raising children of his own, possibly without his aging parents around for much of it, he thought it best to learn a little more about his biological family tree. He had his reasons.
There’d been an online rumor for months of a new DNA-analysis company that, not only traced your national heritage and found unexpected siblings, but the results could definitively tell you how much non-human blood you had (e.g., percent troll, ogre, demon, “other”).
Joey had his heart broken at the prom when his date left him for someone else. He’d half-expected it “for reasons” (prominent acne on his forehead and his tendency to lap his beverages with his tongue), so he didn’t raise a public stink. Instead, he went into the boys’ bathroom to lick his wounds. That’s where his best friend, Roger Thibodeau, found him, hiding in a stall with the lights off. The red glow from the exit sign above the door seemed to fill the room.
“Joey, that you?” asked Roger.
“You followed me out of the gym. Who else would it be?”
“What’s with the weird glow? Open the stall or I’m getting a fire extinguisher,” Roger demanded. “Are you smoking something?”
“Yep, four cigarettes at once. With all my other life problems, let’s just add cancer to the mix!” Joey unlatched the stall door. Roger didn’t like what he found.
“Dude, your eyes are as bright as a caver’s headlamp – and swirly! It’s kinda cool and kinda freaky! You’d make a great manga character. You should look in the mirror. Or maybe not.”
From his perspective, Joey didn’t notice anything unusual. “Don’t mess with me, Roger. I’m this close to flushing myself down the toilet and ending it all, I mean it.”
“Maribeth Hardscrapple is NOT worth it,” said Roger. “She only went out with you to make Dukey Sutton jealous. And ’cause she’s the best dancer in school. She needs to flaunt her superpower whenever she can ’cause she’s not going to get ahead on her grades.”
“She was my first date, man.”
“Next time, lower the bar. Your standards are way too high too early. Your teen years are for quantity, not quality, not for meeting your forever bride.”
“My feet and palms were itchy all night. I wonder if I’m allergic to her or her perfume.”
“Or you woke up your inner beast. Go see.”
Joey stepped out. He could see a light shining brightly on his arms. He glanced up at the ceiling for the source, but there was nothing there. Then he saw his altered reflection. “Damn! I knew I was different. I could feel it. Or is this what peak puberty’s like?”
“My older brother used to stay up all night reading girlie magazines with his bedroom door locked, but his eyes never glowed like yours,” said Roger. “This is something else. Can you turn it off?”
“I don’t know how I turned it on, so no.”
“I’ve got an idea, while we’re alone! Stare at something, like the trashcan. See if you can melt it or burn it.”
“If I don’t know how I turned it on and I don’t know how to turn it off, is weaponizing my powers such a wise next move? Mr. Nelson’s gonna come looking for us any minute, and I’ll be the first kid suspended for accidentally incinerating a chaperone.”
“Maybe you should go home,” conceded Roger. “But first, let me run to my locker and get my sunglasses.”
“I think my eyes are chilling, but that’s a good idea.”
The next day after school, while reading a graphic novel about interdimensional werewolves being tracked to earth by undead bounty hunters, Roger saw the print ad for the DNA test.
“You gotta do it,” insisted Roger. “We gotta know what we’re dealing with.”
“Spit or pee?” asked Joey. “What do I mail them? ’Cause I’m not mailing pee.”
When the answers arrived a few weeks later in a large manila envelope, despite their excitement, the boys hesitated when it came to reviewing the printout.
“Damn nerves!” said Joey.
“I wish I was adopted,” Roger pouted. “For me, what you see is what you get. Sure, I have a 4.0 GPA, but I’m always picked last for sports-ball.”
“You’re awesome at chess,” countered Joey, “write music and make cool butter sculptures.”
“Mom’s not a fan,” said Roger.
“Open your end,” said Joey. “I’ll open mine at the same time.”
A thick booklet fell onto the cluttered, carpeted floor, titled: “There’s more to some people than just people.” When Joey picked it up, a one-page personal analysis, tucked inside the front cover, fell out.
“Here goes everything,” said Joey. He started reading silently.
“Dude!” complained Roger, excluded.
“It says I’m part Titan. They were the parents of the Greek gods.”
“How do they know that?!”
“Based on probability and statistics and their proprietary algorithm.”
“Parents of gods are still gods, though, right? Or are they?”
“Quiet, I’m reading. It’s a scam!”
“Because now they want me to use their matchmaking application. After all, gods can’t just marry anyone; that’s where demi-gods come from.”
“You wanted to raise the bar, so do it. Bring the future missus to graduation. Maribeth will rue the day she spurned my best bud.”
Joey smiled. “It could be a scam, sure, or it could be the best day of my life!”
Charles C Cole lives with his family in Maine on land passed down by his great-great grandfather.