In Which Legend Conquers Science
It was still raining. It had barely stopped in days, and I didn’t own an umbrella.
I almost didn’t go to the funeral. Any excuse I could think of, I would use to justify staying away. But finally, something moved me to go, sitting in the very back with a program clutched in one hand. The eulogy, I barely heard, as I offered up my own words silently. The prayer, I joined in, adding on prayers of my own. Heavenly Father, I begged, forgive me.
It’s a very strange thing to know someone died for you. It seems unbelievable at first, but when you’re watching them be buried, it hits you. It hits you hard.
A random flashback from middle school, something I’d all but totally forgotten, came to mind as we stood in the church cemetery, in the storm. I said many spiteful things then, specifically to Mark Prosper, but in particular I remembered saying I wouldn’t feel a thing if he died.
(He returned the sentiment.)
But that was then, and now he was really dead, and it was anything but the truth. I felt. What would drive a man to risk it all -- lose it all -- for someone he hated?
Someone he swore to kill?
I tried not to think much about the competition between me and Mark. In many ways, it ended just as it was intended to, only later. One of us had to die, according to the Code, and fate works in mysterious ways.
For all his faults, Mark was still the blood of my blood, sanguine meo sanguis. And for all my acrimony to him -- some warranted and some unwarranted -- I would have much liked a proper friendship with him.
We watched the casket disappear into the earth. We watched it disappear forever. I watched relatives and friends, one by one, pay their respects. I watched them slowly trickle out of the churchyard and make their way to the family’s home. Then, it was my turn.
Tragically funny, I thought, that this was the second time in two weeks that I stood at the grave of one whose death could have been my fault. Except this time there was no could have been. I killed him. Sure, I didn’t pull the trigger, but....
A hand on my shoulder startled me, and I startled more when I saw who it was attached to. “Becky. I thought you’d left.”
Rebecca Lester’s eyes were aggressively red. I’d seen her cry like this once before, the day she came to me desperately seeking help. “I thought you ought to know,” she said. “I left the Defenders. Dad did too.”
“You did?” I replied, not entirely surprised. I’d heard Rory Lester resign with my own ears. It was only logical that his daughter would follow.
She nodded. “Dad told me what happened to Mark. I just couldn’t believe it. I turned in my gun that night.”
“Well,” I said, “that’s good, I suppose.”
“I think it’s for the best. And Hailee?” she faltered. “I wanted to thank you.”
“Thank me?” I’m sorry, did I hear her correctly? “For what?”
“For trying,” she said simply. “I know you couldn’t save him in the end, but you tried. You cared. Of course I have to thank you for that.”
All I could say was, “I’m glad it meant something to you.”
Becky got in her dad’s car, and they drove off. I left a few moments after, leaving my fallen brother to rest.
I stole a few minutes before going back to Gram’s to meet at the pack house, and found it in a state of chaos and bustle. The plan we had decided on would go into action next week, and everyone was getting ready. Ready to leave Three Brothers behind. “You nervous?” I asked Jason Kingsley, the second-newest member.
“Nervous?” he shrugged. “Nah. I grew up in Tennessee, remember? I know my way around.”
“Good for you.” Thalia Cleverly, our actual newest member and my new sanguine meo, joined the chatter. “Probably best to have someone who knows their way around.”
“Two someones, actually,” I said, before catching myself.
“Who?” she asked.
I rushed past the question. “Victoria spent some time there as a teenager.” Hopefully Thalia could understand this was a personal story.
She didn’t press the issue. Instead, she looked around at the clutter and sighed. “And I just moved in, too.”
“Sorry about that.”
“No need to apologize, Hailee.” She was only just getting over her habit of calling me “sir.”
“Well, I should be getting on. See you tomorrow.”
Once back at Gram’s, I found myself antsy and unable to concentrate. The television was on when I walked in the door, and I jumped internally from paranoia. Since the coverage began, which was basically every moment since the Little Rock incident, I’d been afraid Gram would figure things out. She showed no signs of anything unusual going on, but it still unnerved me. I locked myself in my room, focusing my energy on trying to read a book.
That wasn’t working. As a lycan, violent emotions were part of the package, I understood, but they were bloody annoying sometimes. No position I sat in was comfortable for over three seconds, and the words of I Am Legend swam on the page.
I had to tell Gram, and I had to tell her soon. I would be leaving in a few days, and I couldn’t and wouldn’t just run out on her again. She deserved the truth.
I set the book down, paced several times around the room in loops. I snatched the funeral program from my dresser, unfolded it, and started tearing. I ripped it, slowly, steadily, from top to bottom. Eyes closed and teeth gritted. Scrrrrip. Scrrrrip. The anger built up and up, coming to a boiling point. Scrrrrip! The paper split in two. I breathed deeply, calmed myself.
It was fine. It was fine.
I fell back on my bed, throwing the crumpled halves onto the desk. It was fine. It was fine. I picked up the book again, flipping back to the page I left off on. Page 29, chapter 3.
grist for the pulp writer’s mill or raw material for the B-film factories.
tenuous legend passed from century to century.
“‘Well, it was true,’” I read aloud to the empty room.
they knew it was something, but it couldn’t be that -- not that. That was imagination, that was superstition, there was no such thing as that.
And, before science had caught up with the legend, the legend had swallowed science and everything.
I threw the book down and walked out of the room.