The War of Archos

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A Glimpse Of Who I Was

The next few weeks fall into a blur of school and homework, with friends littered sparsely amongst the workload. Time drones on as it often does with school, both Hope and I falling into a daily routines that pulls us away from each other more than it brings us together. I’ve seen little of her as she gets more and more hours at the store, and my workload seems to grow with each passing day.

I spend a lot of time with my friends, although it’s been spent studying together. Slash has quickly become my closest ally and much needed friend as we get closer to the end of the school year. I think he understands me better than the others do, even if I would still call all of them my closest friends. I’ve rarely made friends at previous schools. I’ve always ready to run at the first sign of trouble, so it’s been nice to have the support group that I do here.

Lily and I have gotten closer. She hasn’t kissed me again, but there is something between us. I’m reluctant to let it turn into anything however; if Hope and I need to leave quickly, I don’t want the pain of a break up to lay on top of running away. She seems to have a way of pushing herself into my life, and I can’t say I’m complaining. She’s pretty spectacular. I’m just worried that something might happen around her that will scare her off. One of my powers coming to light, for instance. Those still haven’t come in yet, by the way.

Saturday finally comes around, and I get to spend the day with Hope. I can’t believe I need to write it on the calendar just to spend time with my own mother, but that’s how life goes sometimes. I’m in the kitchen, making some scrambled eggs, when she walks in. Or rather, bounces in. She’s a blur of energy, sticking her head over my shoulder to smell my food, before sitting at the island.

“Man that smells good. You’d make a great chef if you put your mind to it.”

“I like it, it’s just the rushed atmosphere I wouldn’t enjoy.” I turn off the burner and grate some cheddar cheese on top, letting it melt for a moment before stirring it in.

“I’m sure it’s not that bad.”

“You’ve seen the cooking shows. ‘You have 90 minutes. Go!’” I spoon the eggs onto two plates, tossing some fresh tomatoes I had chopped earlier on top. I grabbed a pair of forks and brought the plates to the island and sat next to Hope. That’s when I actually take a full look at my mother and my jaw drops.

“Does that mean you like it?” Hope smiles, running a hand through her hair. Her much shorter hair. What used to run down just past her shoulders now ends at her ears. It makes her looks younger, more hip.

“I love it. It looks really great on you.”

“Your friend Grace did it.”

“Grace? I had no idea she was at all into cutting hair.”

“I guess she is. She came into the store yesterday and asked if she could experiment on me.”

“I’m a little surprised you said yes.” My mother is, well, I love her, but she’s not big on change. Ironic, I know, for as much as we move, but it’s true. She’s had the same hair cut for years now, she wears the same few pieces of clothing, and rarely wears make up.

“I know. I’m a little stuck in my ways.” I snort into my eggs.

“A little?” She hits me playfully, running a nervous hand through her hair again.

“Whatever. It’s just, I don’t know. It feels different here. Like we were meant to be here for some reason. Besides, I figured since you should be changing for the better soon, I should too.”

“I’ve been meaning to ask about that.”

“Oh, Mal, you know I don’t know much.”

“I know, I know. I’m just anxious for them to show up already.” She lay a hand on my arm.

“I know you are. You father told me that your powers were rooted in emotions, that they were extension of your feelings.” That doesn’t help me at all. What should I do, go get angry and hope to turn green?

“Why didn’t Dad talk about us very much?”

“He wanted to keep me as safe as possible. He didn’t like that I was pulled into his world as much as I was, but I forced myself in. When I got pregnant, the agreement was that he would teach you when the time came, and I would stay out of that particular aspect of your life.” My mood sours.

“Seems like that worked out.”

“Hey. Don’t reset your father like that. Besides, you know the rule. No moodiness on Date Day.” She smiles and pokes me. I flinch away, but can’t help smiling. I know she’s right. Resenting a father I never knew wouldn’t get me anywhere.

“I think we could do some things on our own, though.” I look up at her, confused.

“What do you mean?”

“You father said that besides your abilities, you would be stronger and faster than the rest of us. How would you like to join a sports team?”

“I’d be down to try it, but I can’t commit to a team knowing that we might have to run at any moment. I wouldn’t feel good letting them down like that, after committing to them.”

“Well, what if you didn’t have to?” I look at her, astonishment and confusion crossing my face.

“What are you talking about?”

“What did you want to do today?” Her change of topic throws me, but I regain my composure.

“I don’t know. Maybe go see a movie or something? There’s that new superhero movie out right now.” A smile crosses her face.

“I have a better idea.”


After we clean up the kitchen, we get into the station wagon and head out of town, heading north highway. I look over at Hope curious.

“You going to tell me where we’re going now?”

“The far away land of Ukiah.”

“You make it sound so magical.” She laughs, filling the car with the joyous sound.

“It’s really not. But just outside of town lives a man who might be able to help us.”

“Us?”

“You.”

“Ah.”

“You’ll see what I mean when we get there.”

The drive goes on for what seems like an eternity, the evergreens on either side of the highway becoming a monotone blur of green and brown. Finally we pass a sign that reads “Welcome to Ukiah”. As Hope pulls off the freeway, I’m not sure what I expected, but it’s certainly not what I’m seeing now.

Ukiah is much larger than I anticipated, closer to a city than a small farming town. Not the type of cities I’m used to, but still a city. We pass tattoo parlors, music stores, several supermarkets, until finally pulling onto a dirt road on the edge of town. We bump our way down the road, finally reaching a small ranch, complete with barn, tractor and quaint house. I glance at my mom incredulously.

“This is going to help me?”

“Mm-hmm.” She gets out of the car, cutting off any further discussion by closing the door behind her. I honestly don’t know how looking at some ranch will help me in any way. I follow my mom out of the car and lean against the warm hood, looking around at the horses grazing in the pasture nearby. Such majestic animals, their muscles flexing and unflexing as they move through the field. The slam of a screen door breaks my reverie, and I look towards the house.

A beast of a man pauses for a moment on his porch, surveying us as though we were wayward pests crossing his property. Long black hair hangs in a thick braid down his massive back, a dark leather cowboy hat seated on his head. A rough white linen shirt tucks into heavy brown work pants, encircled by a wide belt. Shiny black boots come up to the middle of his calf, hiding the hem of his pants. His sleeves are rolled up, exposing large hairy arms, the deep tone of his skin speaking of endless days toiling under the sun in his fields.

As the man steps off the porch, I imagine the earth shuddering beneath his feet as though he were the giant looking for his golden goose. I get a better look at his face as he nears, and it doesn’t help with the giant image I have in my head. A bushy black beard covered his face, concealing most of his neck and collar. Dabs of color shine through the beard, but disappear almost as soon as I notice them. Hope walks towards him, arms outstretched.

“Herbert.” Herbert?! Really? The man is easily six foot five and he’s named Herbert?

“Hope.” His voice is deep and rumbles from his mouth rather than is spoken. He opens his arms and brings Hope into a hug, burying her in his arms. He releases her and steps back, smiling. Hope reaches a pale hand up to his face, and stokes his beard.

“It’s been too long, my old friend.”

“Taken ya long enough to come find me.” He turns his large face to me, his deep brown eyes holding mine intensely. Hope holds out her hand, coaxing me forward.

“Mal. Come on.” I take a few steps forward, regain my confidence, and walk towards the large man with my shoulders squared.

“Herbert, this is Malik. Mal, this is my old friend Herbert.” I hold out my hand to shake Herbert’s, and his hand engulfs mine, shaking it roughly. I finally get a chance to see the hints of color in his beard up close, and I realize that they are colored beads. Someone has woven small pink, yellow and blue beads into his beard. He chuckles when he notices me looking.

“Admiring my beads, are ya Mal?”

“Well, they just seem at odds with the rest of you. You’re so big and manly, then to have pink beads in your beard seems a little off.” He laughs, a booming laugh that echos around the valley.

“You caught me in the middle of tea time with my girls.” He gestures towards the house and I see two small girls, around four and six, standing near the railing of the porch. Herbert leans down conspiratorially. “Stay at home Dad, ya see. I play with me girls as much as I can.” He holds up a large hand to show us the sparkling nail polish he has on his fingernails, and Hope and I laugh.

“Where’s Linda?”

“Work. She a 911 dispatch officer these days. She’ll be home in a few hours. She would love to see you. Will you stay for dinner?” Hope smiles up at him.

“We would love to.” He turns and leads us back towards the house. We fall into step next to him, and I notice how the rocks vibrate when he walks. I assume it’s from his heavy footfalls, but it seems off somehow.

“The girls will be happy to finally meet you.” Hope looks at him with mock horror.

“You didn’t tell them all our stories, did you?”

“Course I did! All my good ones are with you and Paul.” I stop in my tracks.

“You knew my dad?” Herbert and Hope turn back to me, and almost look confused. No, not confusion. Pity. Pity that I don’t know what’s going on.

“I would say I knew him better than anyone else, except maybe your mother. We grew up together. Mal, your father was my best friend.”

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