I lay in bed, staring at the rotating blades of the ceiling fan. It’s the peak of summer, it’s blistering hot despite the open windows and the fan at its highest setting. I lay in boxers. My hands clasped behind my head, feeling the humid air, the waves of wind, and the cool linen sheets underneath.
I wonder what it will be like when the day comes I don’t feel anything at all.
Food is the first thing to go.
After that, it’s said each sensation slowly drips down the length of your body, creeping into your legs until it pools in your feet. Then one day, you stub your toes on the couch and it knocks it all out. Forevermore you are an inhuman husk unable to feel the touches of a feather, the rays of the sun, or the kiss of a lover.
I sit up, scratching my scalp before reaching for the light switch. I was dumb to try to rest with my mind going on. There is always something to be doing.
I lift my laptop off my nightstand, but something falls to the floor. It’s Kyla’s notebook. My eyes glue on its binding, amused by her awful doodles. Hesitantly, I reach for it, resting it in my lap. My hands run across the cover, touching ink and imagining her as she drew these pathetic designs.
Kyla tried so hard to be normal and even in this simplest task like decorating her private diary, she failed.
Kyla was just an odd girl. Unlike anyone I’ve met. But it didn’t mean she didn’t deserve family. I was never a good caretaker for her. My fear of her kept me from befriending her.
But why was I afraid? What was it about her that scared me? I can’t remember now. Every picture of her is harmless and inspires no terror.
I flip open the front page earnestly. The date marks three months after her arrival to our home. I can recall her clearly. How she learned English, Spanish, and French with such speed it was unnatural. I watched from the top of the stairs as Tymician and her went over the newest worksheet. In such little time she advanced and surpassed every expectation.
January 6th 2002. ‘To write one’s thoughts’. That is my objective. ‘To remember what one is taught’. That is my second objective. Are these not two opposite objectives? Do I write what inhabits the cortex of my brain or do I write down the simplistic avenue of events gone by? Tymician explains to me that I do not retain long-term events. Whilst this may be true, what is the necessity of memories? Is not the here and now, the present company, what is vital to a Soul? Are my thoughts so imperative to keep a record of their progress? Do I choose only the most important to track or are the less essential thoughts key to discovery the core of one’s existence? As I write I go back and forth between each subject, each objective. They are two completely different topics with two diverse paths, each as significant as they are insignificant. How shall I divulge the magnitude if I cannot appreciate its contents?
I blink rapidly and reread the chapter if only to understand it. I hadn’t been prepared for such an introduction. I thought it would be a simplistic entry to a young girl’s day, not a fundamental structure of her idealisms. I flip through it, hoping to find the beginning of where Kyla actually became who she is today and I end up at the last paragraph, right before her departure.
“This is stupid. I’m not a threat to them. Why do I have to leave? Whatever is wrong with me doesn’t hurt anyone else. But I guess it’s better this way. Miley and Meryl will never see me as a sister. Tristan looks at me like I’m a monster. And Eric and Leon don’t seem to care either way. I will never matter to Felix like he matters to me. I’m a kid here and it shows when he yells at me to put on shoes everytime I step outside. Maybe going away, he’ll notice I’m not a child. And hopefully this stupid crush will fade so I won’t care either way.“
Kyla had a crush on me? I thought she hated me. She never showed anything else but dislike toward me. How could I have known? It’s just another brick added to her secrets. But it’s also another punch to my gut. I never took the time to know her.
I shuffle through the house quietly, hoping not to disturb my wards but when I pass by Tristan and Eric’s room, I hear their whispers much to my dismay and notice a light under the door. I open it roughly, watching them spin in their seats with large frightened eyes. I love doing that.
“What are you doing?” My arms fold over my chest instantly preparing some speech I’ll have to quickly invent.
“Don’t get mad.” Tristan’s attempts to pacify, “We think we know who has Kyla.”
I look to Leon who is uninterested, playing Grand Theft Auto on their Xbox. Tristan’s warning of Leon’s lying boils my stomach. “Why aren’t you at work?”
“I quit.” He replies snatching a beer off the floor. “There’s too much going on with the clan. I need to be here.”
“A lot of good you’re doing. Talk to me about it next time. I think it’s best if we all try to go back to normal.”
Unable to withhold my curiosity any further, I rest on the bed, fixing my pajama pants and leaning over to look at the computer. Eric turns his chair toward me, pressing his mutated fingers against the screen. “The bloke’s dodgy. I broke through the A.C. firewalls and got into the Ruling’s systems. Look what I found.”
I put the fact that he violated the law and is making me, Tristan, and Leon an accomplice to his crime to the side, and look at the files.
“There’s eight records here. He’s a skivvy little bastard.”
“What does that mean?”
Eric looks to Tristan and eagerly, he explains to me for once. “This guy that has Kyla changed his life eight times. He could be any one of these characters now.”
I click through each folder, finding the same picture over and over. A blond haired man, smiling arrogantly, flawless in skin and demeanor, appears to have the world figured out and in the palm of his hand. This is the son-of-bitch that kidnapped my ward. He must know Kyla is important. I wonder if he is searching for a way to safely barter for her Soul. How much money is he willing to trade for her?
“He’s an Angel.” Leon throws over his shoulder.
“Doesn’t mean he’s decent.” Eric fires back.
I’ve been waiting for a sign. I keep thinking if there was something wrong with Kyla, I would have heard about it by now. I was ignorant thinking she was trying to make her way back here and that any day she’d show up at our door.
“I have to find her. Let’s prepare a team.”
Eric scoffs and I’m thrown off guard by his sudden upset, “How are we going to find this git? Just walk around, do a little pub crawl to gen up? No one knows this prat.”
Tristan interrupts, “You’re lying.”
Eric snaps to his feet, “Belt up, yeah? You want to have a row about lying, mate? This ‘Special’ crap, how long you’ve known ’bout that?”
I glance toward Leon. He seems completely engrossed in the speedily arrival of this new quarrel. I don’t know if I should interrupt. They are brothers but they are also Soul Mates and I can’t begin to fathom the depth of their connection.
“Since I was an Angel.”
Eric steps back, his deformed fingers reaching for the mask on the desk. “That so?”
Tristan blocks his retreat from the room, which oddly puts me in the middle sitting uncomfortable on the edge of the bed. “Do you know what the Ruling does to people like me? In their code of ethics, I’m a genetic flaw. I’m not a Soul to them. Do you have any idea what Tymician gave them in order to release me from their prison? He parted with a slice of his Soul. Why? Why me, Eric? Because I can read lies? He has a dozen others who do the same.”
“I’m not some daft chap. I know what’s out there, Tris. You should have told me.”
“You’re right.” He smiles broadly, “You believe me now though, right?”
The tension drains in the air so swiftly it’s ridiculous. Leon shakes his head, looking at me making sure I witnessed the same odd exchange. I shrug, unsure what I saw.
Eric plops in his chair and the subject reverts to our recent conversation. “I received this off our webpage.” He clicks over to the Fallen website and scrolls down, locating the image of Kyla they must have posted.
“I didn’t know you did this. Didn’t think you cared.”
“She’s the last person to see Tymician. I want to know what she did to him.”
I read a few of the posts, interested to read the comments from other clan mates about my missing ward. Most of them say ‘Good Luck’ or ‘We’ll keep our eyes open’ but the last one is striking and I stiffen as I read it. “’I know where she is.’”
I latch on Eric’s shoulder, “Did you message her?”
“Yeah.” He heads to his mailbox and the letter appears brightly. I quickly scan it before holding out my hand, “Give me the phone.”
“It’s two in the morning.” Tristan protests.
I reread it, wishing that my heart beat if only to elevate the excitement stirring.
’Dear Bear Valley,
A friend of mine works at a gas station off Great Cove Road. He claims to have seen your sister passed out in the back seat of an old gold Saturn. She was with a blond haired man who was injured and slightly erratic. He feared her safety but could not wake her. I hope this helps, please call me if you have further questions.
Your clan mate from Morgantown, Molly.’
“We head to Morgantown in the morning.” I abandon their room but their rushing footsteps only pursue.
Leon vehemently disapproves. “Felix, you aren’t supposed to leave.”
“That’s one of the great things about being king. I can do what I want.”
Tristan and Eric observe me from the breakfast table. They barely make each bite into their mouths as cheerios and drops of milk dribble on the table.
“I’m sorry. What?” Phil adjusts his glasses on his face, standing on the other side of the island bar in the kitchen. “You can’t go.”
My hands spread out on the counter. “You’re going to stop me?”
“I encourage you to create a trusted unit to go in your stead. For your safety.”
Keeping silent is perhaps best at the moment.
He laughs, “What a temper. It is true what they say of the Irish.”
I bow my head, clenching my teeth.
“If you insist, given the unsteady situation you are in. I will accompany you. I think it is best however, we do not bring a grand militia. Morgantown will not be pleased with your arrival and will only be threatened by an army.”
“I’m fully aware that Morgantown is a disagreeable house.”
“Good. Then let’s go.”
Walking the Dust, Phil takes the lead, which keeps me from using the Source. I can’t ride on Tristan’s or Eric’s for they are too weak to host. It’s a relief. The less I have to use the Source the longer I will have to go to Sheol to renew my strength. I never want to return to Hell again if only to avoid the Devil who occupies its domain.
Phil looks back at us. “So Eric I hear you are Protestant.”
Eric looks toward us in offense but unable to voice his fury to an Elder he instead swallows it. “I was.”
“Isn’t it funny how our past mistakes seem to haunt us even as we continue to evolve?”
Tristan latches onto him, attempting to soothe the outward struggle to cause physical violence.
“And Tristan.” They both throw their gaze to him. “I’ve learned recently you were killed for selling your own people into a slavery. A black man selling black people. How ironic.”
It’s instant, they switch roles. Eric wraps his arms around Tristan, tripping over each other to keep him from attacking.
“Ah, here we are.”
The four of us step onto the gravel sidewalk, passing through the gate with ease. The red brick house is dominating and huge in design. It must be to fit ten females inside its walls. The mansion sits on a hill overlooking the town below and the sun shines bright from its early morning wake. Ten cars line up the elongated half-circle driveway. They are all-brand new and personally crafted to fit each woman’s personality.
A servant rushes out to meet us dressed in fine silks and ornate trimmings. He bows low to Elder Phil and then dips his head in my direction before leading the way into the grand foyer. The inside is massive and embellished with all the qualities of rich snobs. I wonder if they know it is my money they squander.
Tristan leans in my ear, “Why don’t we live like this?”
The servant invites us into the drawing room, Tristan and Eric stand gushing over the beauty of its decor. Cream leather sofas lay the foundation while soft yellow curtains festoon along the windows and the walls. Lush ivy drapes along the fireplace, crawling along the floor. The boys check their shoes for dirt and hide their hands so they don’t touch any of the magnificent artifacts lounging about.
Phil takes a seat and feeling challenged, I do the same. He smiles at me. “Your home could use a little redecorating.”
“My home is in the 21st century.” The boys snicker, finding two chairs to make themselves negligible.
The door swings open and we are both on our feet in greeting. Elder Hikmah Veronica leads the line of three others, holding an air of vanity I had not seen of equal quality until I met Erelim Elder Isis. Now she seems so small in comparison. A year ago, Veronica intimidated me. I actually feel like laughing.
Bright red hair fastens around a white bonnet, keeping the unmitigated length in a frumpy lump on her head. Green eyes stray over me, bouncing to Eric and Tristan then resting on Phil. She ignores me as I bow grasping Phil’s hand and kissing his cheek. “Cén chaoi a bhfuil tú, mo ghrá?”
Last year for the volleyball tournament, she spoke Gaelic with Tymician. He tried in vain to form a friendship between us since we are both of Irish descent. She proceeded however to test me on all of my knowledge of my ancestors and I failed in several areas. I remember one single statement that repeated in my head for days after our match. With a little humor in her tone, she sipped on her tea and darted her green eyes toward me, ‘Well, it is quite a shock then that you speak your native language at all.’
My muscles tighten when she meets my ardent stare. Elder Veronica bows her head just a fraction, “It’s a pleasure. Congratulations are in order, despite the unpleasant conditions in which they are obtained. How must I address you?”
“Felix is fine, my lady.”
“Surely just for me.” She flirts needlessly. “You are not some bumpkin to be disregarded. Take a name for yourself so that friends will respect you and enemies will fear you. Shall we sit?”
“I don’t mean to take up much of your time, Elder Veronica. I wish to speak to one of your siblings. Molly.”
She bats a gloved hand, “Whatever for? I apologize now for whatever mischief she has gotten herself in. She is an embarrassment to my house. I tried for years to remove her from my walls but Tymician refused me. Perhaps you won’t be so unkind.”
“What’s the trouble?”
“She has a human Soul Mate. She thinks I don’t know about it but she hides him near our borders.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
Her body tenses as she darts her green eyes away from her subordinates. She observes my calmness, flicks her gaze to my own wards and then over to Phil. “I should have known you would follow such blasphemy. Allow me to enlighten you. Where Tymician so boldly plowed, you cannot do the same. You haven’t the wit, the power, or the experience to accomplish such a feat.”
“Again I thank you for your advice but I assure you all of Tymician ideals will withhold in my rule. Now please, I’d like to talk to Molly.”
She stands abruptly and I’m on my feet in respect. “You are imprudent, Felix.”
“Veronica.” Phil murmurs with a pleasant smile. “The King of Kio desires to see his subordinate. Do you deny him?”
“He is not king yet. Elder Abida will win what is rightfully hers and this Newborn will be forgotten. You are on the wrong side of this, sir. When he falls, you will follow.” She rushes from the room, “Get out of my house.”
Tristan whistles, “That was a little tense.”
“A real dog’s dinner. Best we dash off before she comes after us and tries to cut off our willies.”
I laugh at the seriousness of his expression, scratching my scalp with utter aggravation. That wasn’t at all how I wanted this conversation to go. I thought I would be able to persuade her to join me. The more Elders I have on my side, the less they are trying to kill me.
Phil taps my knee. “Elder Abida is the oldest ranking Elder--”
“I know who she is. If I weren’t here, the clan would pass on to her.”
Eric wonders, “Jorel? Why Jorel? He’s seven thousand years old. There’s five Elders in front of him.”
I stare at the ground, wondering how he knows such a thing. It’s not like it’s private information. It is simply something a Newborn usually doesn’t care about.
Phil replies, “He was seven thousand years old. Recently, under very suspicious circumstances, a Soul donated their Light to him. He is now twenty years younger than Abida.” He glances to my wards and licks his lips, “Perhaps we should continue this another time.”
“I tell them everything, Phil.”
“Perhaps you shouldn’t.”
The servant comes to usher us out of the house much to my disinclination. I contemplate Phil’s musings, mixing them with Veronica’s. It is all about trust, isn’t it? What made these influential beings, unhindered by time and space, hankered down by trust?
I move the subject, “Jorel is an Oracle, isn’t he?”
Holding a grim expression, he replies, “He is. One of three. We are lucky to have him in our services. However, Jorel is a sickly man. He lives in obscurity. Tymician never relied on him for anything. There is rumor they used to be friends once but something broke them apart. Even when Tymician tried to discern the future, Jorel would refuse to give it.”
“He sees the future?”
“For beings like us, I think it’s quite easy to say that but having the ability is relatively a different thing. Think of it no more, Felix, for it is irrelevant.”
Phil’s eyes snap to the right, toward the street, just in time to see someone exit from the Dust. “Help!” She bellows, dropping to the floor. Blood soaks her shirt and dirt and dust defiles her skin. With eyes wide in fear, she spots us and instantly begins scrambling backward along the pavement. “Oh God, no.”
Tristan and Eric rush out to the wounded Angel, hoping to calm her with genteel words. Her fear turns to confusion as they kneel down beside her, grasping each hand with tenderness.
I step toward her, “You’re alright. We won’t hurt you. Tell us what happened?”
She trembles as tears spill over her cheeks. “My house. The Hunting Grounds. It’s being attacked.”