Today is my final day of work. My co-workers posted a large banner over the deli pit with the letters reading, ‘Good Luck, Kyla.’ I spent the entire morning eating homemade cake in the shape of a sandwich and opening gag gifts, some silly, others tactlessly sexual, and then some awkwardly strange. My regulars came in at different intervals to say goodbye and bring in their own presents, making a day that should have been abysmal into a joyous celebration.
Word travels fast around here. I only told my boss yesterday night that I was leaving. There is nothing secret in Bear Valley, this diminutive minor town. We are in the providence of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania but you won’t be able to find it on a typical map.
Bear Valley consists of a hundred perhaps two hundred people. It’s a retirement community with wealthy snobs having nothing else to do with their time but get into each other’s business. Even as some of them wished me luck and hugged me, I know they’ve disliked me since I arrived and have willed me gone. Despite their prudish ways however, I will miss them all. I’ve been here ten years and I’ve grown attached to this place.
I carry a sack home full of goodies. A grin stretches wide upon my lips as I jot the usual path home. Massive trees loom over the aged buildings of the town. The sun sets low in the sky, casting wide shadows along the newly paved roads. I was depressed about leaving my home and my friends, but after all the people that came by today, showing me how much I’ll be missed, I can’t be miserable. I will be able to come back. I’ll visit all my friends. This move is not forever.
The bag swings off my shoulder as I plant my feet on the pavement. Coming toward me is one of my family members. His orange hair and short brick like build makes it obvious from the distance that it’s Felix who stocks toward me. My satisfied state of mind shifts and so quickly, I dive straight into gloom and despair.
I’m moving tomorrow, not because I want to but because I’m being forced too. There isn’t a reason for it. My family just decided on a whim that I don’t belong with them anymore. I could have told them that ten years ago when I moved in with them. We all may be a part of Kio, but just because we are Fallen Angels doesn’t mean we’re going to get along.
His footsteps slow as he approaches me. A grim frown is on his lips. Felix reaches over and snatches the bag with his big sausage fingertips, “I asked you to stay and wait for me.”
I tuck a black strand of hair behind my ear, looking up at the sky, shrugging.
He instantly gets frustrated, “What is that? That’s not a reply. Shrugging is not an answer.”
“You didn’t ask a question.”
Felix spins on his foot, taking off down the road. After a moment, he looks back making sure I follow.
I stare at the back of his head. Is it weird that I have a crush on him? Felix isn’t my brother or father. He’s more like a bossy warden that tends to anger me more than help me. But I’ve liked him for a while. It’s not anything deep. It’s not love. He’s cute, that’s as profound as it goes. He’s also a sweet guy when he isn’t being rude or instructing me on how to live my life. And he has direction. He knows what he’s doing with his life while I feel like I’m missing out on fun.
It doesn’t matter what it is I feel about him. He sees me as a little teenage girl while he’s a ‘father among men’.
I roll my eyes, “I’ve walked this path for nine years. There’s no point for you coming to get me.”
Felix doesn’t reply and before long we are back on our property. He holds the gate to the sidewalk open for me than tightly secures it. I watch him with suspicion. Ever since the phone call yesterday, I’ve wondered if something was wrong. Now Felix is acting strange. He lays the bag at my feet, “Don’t go off the compound.”
“Tymician’s orders.” He replies darkly, “Do as you’re told for once.” He stomps down the elongated footway and the screen door slams shut behind him, echoing across the distance.
I stand at the gate gazing at the grandiose Victorian home and the depressing thoughts of moving swarm in my head. I’ll be leaving this place and its stunning countryside tomorrow. The willow trees hovering over the arching staircase will be only in my memory. The veranda with its dual swings and the many cold nights I slept nuzzled into their comforts will soon be forgotten. All the family games we played on this two acre lot: soccer, football, baseball, and field hockey; I guess I will have a new family to share new memories with.
Will I fit in with them better? Will they like me?
I contemplate taking a drive, defying Felix’s orders, and leaving behind the melancholy this house represents. My car rests inside the massive garage beneath a sheet to protect it from dust. It goes unused for over a week now. In Bear Valley, cars become obsolete. The grocery store is four blocks away, the town physician lives five houses down, and the city itself is a mix blend of little buildings that stem no more than a mile.
I love this place. I don’t want to leave but if I have to, I want to go on a crazy, careless, fast-paced crusade.
I kick off my shoes with the rest of the family’s in the foyer and peek in the living room. My sisters lay out on the couch, ignoring my arrival. They’re twins, blond and beautiful, perfectly tanned by the summer’s sun. I look down at my own hands disgusted at the pale pigmentation that reflects back. My fingers move to my hair, twisting through the black tendrils with bitterness.
I don’t bother saying anything. I smell food and I’m starving. I leave behind my bag of goodies, eagerly darting through the empty dining room to get to the kitchen. Light shines through glass doors, pouring on the stainless steel appliances and black marble countertops. It feels giant when the family isn’t gathered around the glass kitchen table, jabbering and laughing with each other to fill the cathedral ceilings with horseplay.
Upon spotting that the table is set for eight, I beam, “Is Tymician joining us?”
Felix glances over his shoulder with a warm smile, “Yeah.” He stirs whatever he’s cooking. “Go change. He should be here soon.”
It’s true what they say: You want to get an Irishman to change his mood, wait ten seconds. My belly rumbles when he looks at me like that and I quickly spin away.
Racing up the kitchen stairs, I slam into Tristan and then trip over Eric but disregard them all the same as I run to my room. Tristan and Eric are next on the sibling totem pole. Big brothers and they are inseparable. To my irritation, they love pranks and setting things on fire. Imagine how many things of mine I’ve had to throw away because of their delightful shenanigans?
I pass Leon’s bedroom, his door wide open with music blaring. My own room is right next to his and though he’s the oldest, he’s the least communicative. We’ve slept right next door to each other for ten years and the only time we talk is when it’s about music or my car.
I swing open the door, my elation deflating upon setting eyes on the boxes stacked against the walls. I’ve forgotten that I’ve packed all of my clothes. I was going to wear something nice but now I have to settle for ripped jeans and a ragged Beatles T-shirt. The shirt itself has seen better days. I’ve worn it so much it’s crumbling as I stretch it over my head.
I turn to look in the mirror, adjusting the torn portions to make it seem like a whole shirt. I reposition the scarf that wraps my neck scrunching up my nose when I have to yank it off to redo it. My eyes drop low to my throat.
My Death Scar lies across my larynx, stretching from ear to ear. It forms a nasty little speed bump that is impossible to ignore. It’s a disgusting sight, one I’ve tried to hide for years if only to forget about and pretend that it isn’t there. My fingers touch its bubbled skin.
Without this proof, I could imagine I am a normal human girl living in an unhappy foster home. But with it, I’m stuck reliving the day Tymician found me wondering alone covered in blood.
I don’t remember anything from that time. Tymician gave me my name. He told me I was Fallen, an undead Newborn derived from Sheol. It’s something that no one wants to believe. He rewrote an entire life that is impossible for me to grasp but without a memory, who am I to say different? If he says I’m a Fallen Angel then that’s who I am. And if he says I have to leave Wilkes-Barre then I’m catching the next bus out of town.
I wrap the scarf back tight around my neck, pulling out my black hair and fixing the ponytail before running down the stairs to the kitchen. My siblings congregate in front of the sliding glass door that leads to the pool and I know instantly Tymician’s here. I wait on the steps hoping I can peek over the crowd and see him. He’s short however. My siblings are all nearly six feet tall. Felix and I are the only ones of relative normal size.
They all talk at once, I can’t even hear his voice. I stretch my neck eager to see something. I spot the top of his head: brown lush hair. My smile widens and I bite my lip, keeping myself back.
Felix voice bellows with authority, “Alright, sit down. Food’s getting cold.” I didn’t even notice that the food was already on the table. I recall that I’m beyond hungry.
The crowd sluggishly departs and at last, his green eyes flip up and meet mine. Tymician smiles lovingly, a kind and doting smile only a father could manage. He leans his head to the side with a soft short sigh, as if he’s relieved to see me. He holds out a hand, “Kyla.”
I rush to his arms and hug him tight. It’s been months since I’ve seen him. He hasn’t changed. He’s never changed in the ten years that I’ve known him. Fallen do not age. I never have to worry about my father getting old and dying. Tymician is thirty-three for eternity.
He brushes my hair with his small hands and kisses my temple. “Are you well?”
I nod against his chest.
“You couldn’t have missed me?” He mocks. “Of course not. What do you need me for when you have so many to take my place?”
I ease out of his hold and look up. How could he even joke? No one could replace him. Tymician is everything to me.
He kisses my forehead, “Let’s eat. I know you are hungry. Tell me about your day.”
Dinner is a rush of noise. I simply sit and listen, eager to talk but unwilling to interrupt. Miley and Meryl can’t stop overlapping each other as they go on tandems about our lives. They want to give detailed accounts to nearly everything that transpired while Tymician has been away. Tristan and Eric have to give in their two-cents every so often. Felix enjoys it, purely listening, laughing, and barely eating as he observes everyone. Our eyes meet occasionally but it affects him little. I know I mean zilch to him and though it causes rumbles in my stomach, I shove it down.
Leon sits on the other end of Miley. He’s not partaking in the gathering. He’s not listening. He sits there, scruffy looking as always, scarfing down whatever’s on his plate with earbuds in.
Meryl helps clear the dishes as Miley prepares dessert. It’s finally quiet at the table. I can speak for the first time. “How have you been?” I ask what no one else has yet wondered.
Tymician’s lips stretch contently. He places his elbows on the table, folding his hands in front of his mouth. “Repetitious. I grow weary of appeasing members and dealing with their hoary ways.”
Tymician is ten thousand years old. He annoyingly talks like it too.
Felix sits with crossed arms, a common position despite how uncomfortable it looks. He has a massive chest and burly arms. He constantly rips shirts without much movement. Even now, the fabric stretches and screams. “Bring me along more often and you won’t have to deal with anyone.”
They speak about clan affairs, a subject I don’t care much about. Kio is just a name to me. I’d much rather pretend we are family and not a faction fighting against the supposed ‘Darkness’.
Thankfully, dessert ends any discussion about clan politics. Cheesecake sits in front of me and I demolish it within a few bites, scrapping the last bits off the plate. I would get more but I can feel Meryl glancing in my direction, judging me with her bright blue eyes. I don’t like to fight when Tyimician’s here so I keep to my seat, squeezing my lips.
Tymician sets down his fork barely touching his own. I wonder if I can sneak a bite of his. “Alright,” He begins, “The reason I’ve come.”
I lift my gaze in question.
“You all have done this before and so I will rely on you again. We will sneak Kyla out of the city in the morning. Discretion is necessary. Do you understand?”
They all nod their heads; a normal request they’ve obviously heard before. It’s me that’s struck with bewilderment. I stutter finding words caught in my throat. “Sneak me out? Why?”
Miley latches on, “Yeah, what did the little twerp do?”
Felix responds calmly, “Your job is easy, Miley. Follow your instructions, will you please?” She rolls her eyes, blowing out air through her lips.
My own question however is disregarded and overlooked. It’s like I’m not even here, sitting in front of them. I lean up, attempting to gain their eyes, “What’s going on?”
Miley bites, “Oh, stop being a drama queen. I had plans tomorrow, you know. God, how many things in my life have you ruined?”
I slam my hand on the table; the glassware shakes and wobbles, “Miley, shut up!”
“Kyla!” Felix bellows.
I abandon the table, rushing through the dining room, hoping to make it through the front door but Felix calls from the kitchen, “Don’t leave the property.”
I curl my lip standing in the foyer. I’m so close to the exit. I could get in my car and drive away.
Instead, I snatch my bag of gifts off the collection of shoes and pound up the steps. I make sure to slam my door harshly so it rattles the walls.
A normal human would pant and huff. Their heart would be thumbing like a mad drummer. Their face: a red cherry. And if they punched a wall in their rage, they would bleed and it would bruise and scab over.
I like to pretend I’m human but it’s at moments like this, that it’s impossible. I stare at my face in the mirror and all I have is a furrowed brow and clenched teeth.
I do not breathe. I have no heartbeat.
For eternity, this is my face, my body. How does Tymician do it? How does any Fallen live for thousands of years, staring at their face day after day, never living at full potential?
To have anger like a real human would be gratifying, wouldn’t it? To experience happiness as defined in music. I know there is more to it than what I feel. There is more to love, to frustration, to hate than how I experience it. I’m not complete. I’m Fallen, a glimmer of what I could be.
A knock on the door breaks my thoughts and I swing it open prepared for Miley or even Felix but I release the built up upset when I find Tymician standing in front of me. I can’t imagine raising my voice toward such a man. I step back, thrown off guard.
He smiles warmly, “Can I come in?” Quickly I widen the door, moving out of his way. Tymician gazes around the room, nodding, approving of my packing. “You’re almost finished. Good. I will have the boxes sent as soon as possible.” He sits on the bed, folding his hands in his lap. “Kyla.”
His tone of voice makes me nervous. I play with the strings of the bag at my feet, wondering what he is going to say.
“You know I’ve kept many things from you. You act unknowledgeable but you are very perceptive.”
I shrug, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear. I don’t want to talk about it now. I’m over it. I’ll do what he says. I’ve been doing what he’s told me to do for the last ten years, I have no problem continuing doing that. Just as long as we don’t have to talk about it.
He continues nonetheless, “You are different.”
“I’m not different.” I drag the bag over to an empty box and drop to my knees. My hands dig into its confines, pulling out a brand new IPod. My co-workers all piled in together to buy me this, presetting Madonna and the Beatles on my list. They know me so well. I fit in with them. Doesn’t that mean something? Why do I get along so well with humans and yet, I struggle here at home?
Tymician shifts, attempting to gain my attention. “But you are, darling. One day you will have to face that. It hasn’t mattered before.”
“Nothing’s changed. It still doesn’t matter.”
“I’m sneaking you out of town because it doesn’t matter, is that right? Do you like living so ignorant?”
“Yes.” I slam the IPod into the box. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore. Thank you for everything you’ve done and everything you’re doing. I’m grateful. I’ll do whatever you say just please can we drop it?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I see his head nod. I’ve come to know him so well, I know he’s unhappy with me. The last thing in the world I want is to disappoint him.
What good will talking do? Why point out my flaws? I want to be human so let me concentrate on all of the qualities that make me human. Let me be happy, living in a false world. I will ignore all the facts that brightly reveal otherwise and stay ignorant.
Everyone desires to be something better. Something grander. Even as kids, humans dream of fanciful futures. Well, I am technically a kid. In the Fallen world, I’m a Newborn, ten years old and counting. My dreams aren’t of anything unreal. My ideal isn’t far-fetched.
I simply want a heartbeat. I want to feel blood rushing in my veins. I want love, a passionate sort of love that the Beatles constantly sing about. I want to experience what Madonna yearns for in her music. The way she makes a kiss seem like it is worth all of the terrible atrocities humans’ face.
I want to be human. If only for a moment.