Chapter 14: Any Fate But This
Chapter Fourteen Any Fate But This
We finished our meal and went to my bedroom. Hayden had a black duffel bag that he’d been keeping under his bed from which he pulled a silver, metal orb. It looked heavy and was about the size of a grapefruit.
He pulled the chair up to me, next to the bed. Holding the castor and shaking his head, he said “I’d really better not regret this.”
I wrinkled my nose. “You know, it doesn’t help me to become less anxious when you say things like that.”
He looked at me apologetically. “I’m sorry. I just pictured this experience for you would go a little differently the first time, more planned. I wanted you to be ready.”
“Ready? How does one prepare herself for saving the dead, Hayden?” I said sharply, but I hadn’t meant to sound so mean. I made an attempt to buffer what I said then. “I mean, you can’t just put this off for me if this is what my true calling is, right?”
He looked at me in amazement. “Since when did you get so mature?”
I rolled my eyes. “It comes and goes, I guess.”
“Here,” he handed me the castor, “we need to prepare it and send it out first.”
I took the metal contraption in my hand and noticed it was lighter than I’d expected. It was smooth all around, except for the crease sealing the two halves. I’d assumed it was welded together, but when I looked closer, I saw a break that showed signs that the sphere could separate or open. As I rolled it in my hand, I found a hinge-like divot. Above that was a tiny, clear bulb embedded into the metal. Not far from that section was a small hole angling slightly into one of the sphere halves, big enough for a thumb to be placed. I inspected a little closer and saw a transparent square piece that lay securely within that crevice.
“That’s why you have to make your own,” Hayden said to me.
“Huh?” I looked at him.
“That piece you’re looking into....that’s how you open it, with your fingerprint. After they have been set, it scans and reads your print and the castor opens.”
I was confused. “But if these were my dad’s, then how am I supposed to open them?”
“Because when I took them from him, I reset them. They aren’t locked or programmed to his prints anymore. All four of them are the same, but I don’t want to bust out the other ones. You need to make your own, and I planned on doing that after we settled in Georgia. We’ll get together with Elliott after we move so you can design four new ones with him.” He sighed. “For now, we can just program this one for you to use. We have to set it so the sensor reads your print.”
I looked at him, waiting on instructions.
“Do you see that hole above the sensor? It’s about the size of the eraser on a pencil.”
I looked the castor over once again and found what he described. I hadn’t realized it was anything special. “Yeah, I see it.”
He nodded. “You need to blow your breath into that hole until the bulb lights up.”
I almost wanted to laugh because it seemed almost like a breathilizer that the cops used, not that I would know personally. I looked at Hayden, but kept a straight face. I could tell he wasn’t in the mood for joking around.
“Go ahead,” he assured me. “It will make a faint, beeping sound to let you know it’s done reading. Kind of like a thermometer.”
I reluctantly pulled the castor toward my face, put the hole up to my mouth, and blew into it. In a matter of a few seconds, I heard the faint “beep” it made. I pulled it away from me to observe and sure enough, the light was glowing white. I showed Hayden.
“Good. Now the next part is something you and I have to do together.” He came over to the bed and sat in front of me, placing his hands on either side of the castor, holding each sphere half. “This time, I need you to place your thumb onto the flat sensor inside here,” he nodded to the embedded square piece, “and place your other hand over mine while you breathe into the hole one more time.
I looked at him, inquisitively. “And what, may I ask, is this supposed to make it do?”
“It will sense your print and your breath together, marking itself as yours. At the same time, it will sense me, through you, as your Guardian when I do my part. Then, it will lock itself as your castor. We’ll know it took once the light turns red.”
“Jeez, do we have to do this when I get the new ones, too?” I asked.
“Yes, Evika. It’s how we set them up so that only you can use them. No one can open them or use them once they are set to you, unless I reset them. Having your own helps you speak with the Seekers better, so these are just loaners for now. This old one will be reset and go back into the vault or just disposed of once you make your own.” He sounded so serious. I guess saving the dead was a serious matter, so I shouldn’t have complained, but I was hoping that the mood would have lightened a little. “If you want to back out now, just say so.” Hayden started. “I’m perfectly fine with us just wait---”
“I’m fine,” I cut him off. He pursed his lips. “Okay,” I said as I placed my hand over his and my thumb in the sensor, “I’m ready if you are.”
Hayden nodded. I blew into the hole and felt a surge of energy weave through my body, starting at the hand that touched my angel and then work up through my arm and throughout the rest of me. It was something I’d felt a few times before with Hayden, but now that we were consciously touching to make something happen, I noticed the power of it. The light turned red along with a faint “beep” once again. I slowly pulled my head away from the castor, our hands still touching, and looked at Hayden questioningly.
“Good,” he said. “It’s activated now.”
“What did you just do?” I asked.
“I just focused my energy into you.” He smiled took the castor from my hands.
“Hmm,” I observed him as he walked to the window. “So, now what?”
“Now, we throw it out there.” He nodded to the window. “The light is red, which means it’s ready for a Seeker. Once it returns, it should be lit green and ready for you to access your first save.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Okay, let me get this straight. You’re going to toss that thing outside where anyone can just come along and pick it up?”
“No,” Hayden shook his head, “once it is out of your possession and mobilized, the Seekers are the only ones who can see or access it. It can only be seen in their realm.”
“Okay, this whole thing is just getting more weird by the minute,” I confessed.
“It’s also vapor metal,” he declared.
“Which means nothing to me.”
“Vapor metal is a compound unknown to mankind. That’s why these things have to be designed and engineered by Elliott. Only the Council has the compound in order to make these. It’s a solid and a gas; either, or.”
“In layman’s terms, it’s a vapor that turns metallic and vice versa?”
Hayden smiled at me. “You catch on quick, Pony-girl.”
“I’d be in trouble if I didn’t,” I admitted.
“Would you like to do the honors?” He held the castor out to me in his palm as he stood by my bedroom window. I was reluctant to answer, and he could tell. “Come on. I want you to see what happens.”
I got up from the bed and walked over to him, taking the castor in my hands. Hayden opened the window and stood to the side, gesturing for me to walk up beside him. “Once we get settled at the new place, we can just set them on each side of the house, but,” he looked out of the window and down to the ground, “this will have to do for now. Toss it toward the street lamp over there so that you have something at which you can aim and keep your eyes on.”
I looked at the metal orb, then at Hayden, then out the window, and then down at the street. “So, I just throw it?”
“Yup.” Hayden smiled with a nod.
I took a deep breath. I wasn’t sure why the concept was so complicated for me to perceive, but I forced myself to realize this was going to be “normal” for me for the rest of my life, until I died. Again. “Okay,” I sighed. I wound up my right arm as if I were ready to throw a pitch to a major leaguer and shot the castor out of the window, aiming at the street lamp and keeping my eyes on it as Hayden told me. I discovered my aim was pretty precise and then, right before my eyes, a quick zap of light surrounded the castor, encompassing the sphere, and then it was out of sight. Gone.
“There!” Hayden laughed and clapped once. “Did you see that? It went right through!”
I observed in shock.“It’s gone.”
“It’s with them now,” he said. “The next Seeker in line will find it and transfer its spirit into it, waiting for you to open it again.”
“What do we do now?”
Hayden looked at me. “We wait.” He tugged at my hand, pulling me with him out of the room. He led me to the living room, and we sat down on the couch. It was eerily quiet and almost bothersome. I didn’t want the television on, but music was never something I would refuse. All it took was one glance at Hayden before he smiled at me and got up to turn the stereo on.
“I should have known better,” he said playfully as he spun the dial to find something familiar. He stopped and turned to me. “How’s this?”
I listened carefully because the volume was low. I instantly recognized the song and smiled. All That I Am. “Works for me.”
Hayden came back to the couch, grabbed a pillow, and tossed it onto his lap. He extended his arm, waiting for me. “Come ’ere, kiddo.”
I pulled my pony-tail out and leaned back, laying my head on the pillow and looked up at him. I felt home lying there in his arms, just as I’d felt any time he touched me. I closed my eyes and grinned, inhaling the scent that was only his. It surrounded me, relaxing me instantly. He started playing with my loose hair.
I peaked up at him with one eye opened and caught him smirking.
“What are you smirking about?” I asked, but I couldn’t help closing my eyes again, sedated by the soft touch of his angel fingers making tiny twirls in my hair.
“Just thinking,” he answered softly.
“Are you gonna tellllll me?” I pried.
He laughed lightly. “I was just thinking about how much better we’re getting along.”
I smiled widely as I thought about our consistent ups and downs, and then looked up at him again. He was right. The past couple of days seemed to go a bit smoother than the first few. “You know, you’re right.” I giggled. “Wonder what’s happening.”
“Isn’t it obvious?” he asked. “I’m growing on you.”
I laughed heartily at his comment. It felt good to laugh, and it felt good that Hayden was the one that made it happen. I felt better about what we were doing after that, the fact that he’d gotten over that overly-serious mood since we’d reset the castor. His earlier mood was making me anxious, and his humor was something I really needed.
I started thinking about Ms. Makerov again and what she had said earlier: You will find happy again. I wondered if she had noticed my unhappiness that much. Did Hayden pick up on it as well? I didn’t really want to ask him because I was afraid to know the answer. Probably because I knew what he would say. I wasn’t dumb. I knew he would agree with her, that I’d been a train wreck for a long time and needed to find a way to move on and be happy again. In fact, Joel thought the same thing.
It seemed as though pulling myself out of the darkness should be so simple. Every time I had these thoughts, open-ended questions, unanswered inquiries about my life, they all led to this angel. I couldn’t help but think he was my hope. Could it be that he would be “my happy?” With all my heart, I wanted him to be. I wanted to let go of anything and everything that scared me, everything that made me doubtful or faithless. I wanted Hayden to be my reason to carry on. He was starting to become my everything, and I wondered if it was supposed to be that way; so easy.
“I hate to break your trance,” he cleared his throat, “but I think the castor is back now.”
I blinked and shook myself out of the daydream, noticing that I’d been staring at the ceiling and playing with his fingers, the fingers of the arm he had wrapped around my waist. I was over embarrassment at that point in time. He should have known by then that I was infatuated with touching him, and it was the best thing for me while we waited.
I gulped audibly and sat up, following him back to the bedroom again. “How do you know it’s back?” I asked him.
He turned to me. “I heard it. Soon, you’ll have that ability as well. The whispers are quite prominent when you know what to listen for.”
My stomach dropped. “Wh-Whispers?”
“Yes.” His expression turned unfavorable then. “You will also hear the sounds of the Watcher. The Seeker’s Watcher is there to try to recapture the soul if they have the chance to pull them back into the dark realm again.”
I gasped. “What do you mean ‘try to recapture the soul’? How would they do that?”
“The creatures are there mostly as a distraction to you, but they are able to imprison the Seeker again if they are not released in time. Also, once you open the castor, the Seeker’s spirit mist will start to form, and you must act as quickly as possible before their true form starts to manifest. That is why we can never send the castors out without the intention of saving the soul as soon they are loaded....when they are green. Rules are made, and they are followed. The castor is set, sent, opened, and then emptied. We will stick with the same, standard rules just as your father stuck to and as all the Soldiers did before him.”
He spoke with such a lecturing tone, as if he thought I was going to try to change things or break rules. His words felt like a scolding over some crime I hadn’t even committed, and that offended me slightly, but I shrugged it off, thinking maybe I was just being overly sensitive due to the circumstances.
Hayden studied me and then smiled, relieving me quite a bit. “You’ll get used to it, Evika. I promise.”
“I hope so,” I said quietly, a bit more relieved.
We entered the room and, sure enough, the metal orb was sitting on the sill of the open window with a glowing, green light lit. Hayden took it in his hands and sighed.“You’re ready, then?” he asked me.
It was like my last chance to back out, and I could have taken it. After all the anticipation, I almost talked myself out of it and said “to hell with this” or “let’s just wait,” but I’d put such solid effort into getting Hayden to agree to let me see how things work. I’d look ridiculous if I backed out now. I had to do it, get it over with. I wanted to know.
“Hayden,” I looked at him intensely and took a deep breath, “I’m ready.”
He nodded and walked over to the bed, gesturing for me to sit down. “This save and every save from here on out will require us to be together, meaning that we have to be physically touching in order for me to make the save painless for you. It’s important not only for that reason, but also so we can communicate. At first, this whole thing is going to be taxing on your body, so we need to take this one slow. When you transcend into the moment of the Seeker’s death, you must try to get yourself to realize it is much like the realm I took you to when you were in the hospital. It will feel much like the memory realm, and that is exactly what it is for the Seeker. They will transcend with you into the moment of their death and you take their place. Does that make sense?”
“Clear as mud,” I said nervously.
Hayden handed the castor over to me and sat on the bed behind me. My body pressed against his as he maneuvered me to sit between his legs. His arms folded around my waist loosely. “You open it the same way we set it with your print, but this time, the orb will open and you must inhale the spirit mist of the Seeker. By inhaling the contents, you are inviting the spirit to use your body as their vessel. Are you ready for this?”
Before I said I was officially ready for the umpteenth time, I had one last question before I was cast into this other world. “Hayden,” I gulped, “what is the very first thing I’m supposed to see?”
I felt his gentle hands pulling my hair back behind my shoulders as he leaned into my ear. “The very first thing you will see will be the Seeker you are to save. He or she will appear before you, and it will be as if you are looking into a mirror right before you become him or her as you both transcend into the imminent moment.”
I let the idea sink in. Just pretend it’s not real. Just go along with it and be that person. I get in. I die like them. I get out. Hayden will pull me out. My little pep talk made it sound a lot more simpler than I knew it was going to be.
“Okay,” I took a deep breath. “I’m ready....for sure, now,” I assured him.
Hayden held me tightly and whispered into my ear. “I’m right here with you, Evika. I’m not going to let anything bad happen to you. I promise.” The Hayden-wave was sent through me and my nerves calmed instantly. I half-smiled as I pressed my print against the piece on the castor and the light lit brighter. The castor opened and a cloudy vapor started to rise slowly from within it. It was a controlled form and not that big in size. It hovered in the air above me as my body became rigid, unsure of what to do.
“It’s the spirit,” Hayden whispered. “You must invite it into you. Just inhale the mist, and the rest will follow,” he instructed.
I realized I was pushing backward, afraid of this new entity, but I composed myself and sat forward, pulling Hayden with me. I can do this, I thought to myself. This is what I am supposed to do. Hayden is here with me, and everything will be okay.
I let the mist sink closer to my face, and then I inhaled it through my mouth, watching it enter my body. It felt cold going into me and down my throat, and then my sight went black as I felt my mind racing. Then, I saw her about six feet away from me, a young woman. She had blond hair and wore a green sun-dress with a white flower print. That was the first thing I noticed about her. Her expression was sad as she stared back at me. She slowly walked up to me, and I couldn’t move.
“Save me,” I heard her voice.
I stared at her as she came closer and closer, as she extended her hand to me. Assuming I was expected to do the same, I composed myself and mirrored her gesture, lifting my hand to meet with hers. As soon as I touched her, my mind was flooded with the most overwhelming sights I’d ever seen. She showed me the most awful images I’d ever witnessed. Flashes of memories, nightmares, feelings of guilt, despair, regret. I felt like I was sinking and waited for my vision to come back as I screamed. I didn’t want to see anymore. The blood. The tears. The screams. Their faces. Tiny, little hands. Lifeless bodies. I wanted to be anywhere but there. I wanted to die. Death would have been better than this. Death would have been a step up from the hell she was giving me, what she was making me see.
My heart punched against my chest with every beat it made, and my head ached from the rushing blood that flowed through it. I moved every part of my body, thrashing around with the limbs I thought I could still feel, even though I was still seeing these horrible images. I hoped with all my faith that Hayden could feel or hear me and would pull me back to where he was.
Death. Where was the death for which I was to be her vessel? The transcend did not take place as Hayden said it would, and I was never sent to that moment.
Sylvia Bonnick. That was her name. I, somehow, knew everything about her. Every intimate thing. And I despised her for it with every ounce of my body and to the pit of my stomach. I saw everything she’d done; what put her there.
I’d lied. I was not ready for this. And I didn’t think I ever would be after what I’d just witnessed. I kept my screams constant, and though I no longer had a vision of her face, I shut my eyes tightly and waited for my angel to pull me back to where he was, just as he promised. I held onto that hope in the darkness I’d fallen into, still forced to listen to the cries of the little voices and to watch glimpses of their limp bodies.
I finally heard his voice calling my name, starting from a distance, echoing, then becoming stronger and more prominent. “Evika!” I could breath again when I heard him. I then felt his strong arms embracing me again, calling my name over and over. The visions went away, and the deafening cries subsided.
I opened my eyes.
The first face I saw was my angel’s, and it brought me relief. I coughed excessively as the mist exited my body and entered back into the castor from which it came. My breathing remained heavy as he cradled me in his arms, shushing me, rocking me, and stroking my hair. I clutched to him and cried out the same sounds I remember making three years ago. A pain that I couldn’t describe was within me, and I wanted it out. I wanted to get rid of the thoughts I had, rid of memories placed in my head. I still felt as if I had a hard time breathing, but it was only because I was heaving screams into Hayden’s chest. My body shook violently, and I was unable to control it.
I felt his antidote wave through me and was thankful it finally came. My crying slowly subsided, and Hayden cleared the hair from my face, lifting my chin and wiping my tears with his thumbs.
“Evika, I’m sorry. Whatever happened to you, I’m so sorry.” His eyes held a pain in them that I hadn’t seen before. “What did you see, Evika?” he whispered. “Please just tell me what you saw. What went wrong?”
I thought for a moment, about what I saw. I winced at those thoughts, squeezed my eyes shut, forcing more tears from them, and rolled to curl up in the fetal position on the bed. I couldn’t speak of those images. I wished Hayden could have just seen them with me so I didn’t have to say them aloud.
“Evika, please talk to me,” he frantically pleaded. I felt him lay behind me, contouring his body against mine and draping his arm over me as he continued pumping the wave of calm through my body. It still didn’t get rid of those images.
I tightened my position, still shaking slightly as I kept my eyes shut. “Hayden,” I tried to take controlled breaths to speak, “she touched me, and I saw everything she had done. She.....she.....killed them. A little boy and a little girl.” I cried and grabbed my face. The images were too powerful for his antidote to work on my mind. My body may have stopped convulsing, but I couldn’t escape my head. “They kept crying for her when she did it, Hayden! They kept screaming ‘Mommy! Mommy!’ God, why can’t you just see what I saw? Why did I have to see what she did, Hayden? Why?”
Hayden pulled my face toward him, giving me a clueless expression. “Evika, what do you mean you saw what she did? What did she show you?”
I felt a new emotion override the fear in me as I recalled her face. This feeling, it was an anger that I wasn’t used to. It was a hostile and ungodly wrath that fabricated within me as I realized the meaning of the horror. I sat up slowly, Hayden guiding me with his arms, afraid to let me go. I wiped the ever-falling tears from my eyes and looked into his. “I saw what put her there, Hayden. I saw what put her in Alysto’s hands.”
Hayden froze with an unsettling expression as he looked at me, trying to understand what I’d just told him. “You saw the wrong she’d done,” he declared softly.
My lips pursed, and my nostrils flared. “Why didn’t you tell me that would happen?” I spoke through my teeth to him.
Hayden shook his head with a dumbfounded look still upon his face. “Evika, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know that would happen,” he paused as he tried forming his words. “You were supposed to have just gone in, transcended with the Seeker, and become her vessel. That is all.”
His look of shock was making me anxious and started prolonging my hostility. I scooted myself to the edge of the bed and turned away from him so I didn’t have to see his face. His expression showed an incompetence in him, a weakness that I was afraid to see in him because I never thought it existed. I thought he knew everything. I thought his wisdom of this entirely new life for me was all up in there, in that pretty head of his. But it wasn’t. He was just as much overtaken with surprise by this curve ball as I was.
Anger filled my face, and I swear I could have boiled a pot of water with my head. I straightened my arms and tightened my fists as I tried to retain myself from breaking something. My nails dug deep into the skin of my palms. I had to control it, the rage that I’d felt sometimes when I just couldn’t fix or understand things.
“Where the hell is my free will, Hayden?” I said bluntly. “I didn’t choose this! Is this really God’s plan for me?” I looked down at my hands. “Look at me! I’m so pissed off that I’m shaking!” And I was. I could feel the lump developing in my throat as tears started to form, yet again. “How is this, at all, fair to me, Hayden? Can you tell me this?” I whipped my head around to look him dead in the eye, waiting for his answer.
“Evika,” Hayden gave me a look of pity, and then an exhibition of clarity cast upon his face. “Maybe this is your gift.”
It took me less than one second to swallow what he’d just said, and I gave him a penetrating glare. “Gift? You think this is a gift?” The boom of thunder made us jump as we jerked our eyes to the window, watching the rain hit hard on the sill. I stood and walked over to the window. “What kind of god lets a woman take a box-cutter to her three and four-year olds’ throats, when all the while they are pleading with her to stop?” His mouth went agape. “What kind of a god lets her dump their lifeless bodies off the dock in the nearby lake right before she goes home to swallow a full prescription bottle of Oxycontin to kill herself off?” I was now screaming at him. “Tell me, Hayden! What kind of fucking god is that?”
I folded my arms and lowered my head, letting the tears continue to fall. “And what kind of god gives this kind of gift to the one person who is supposed to save the souls of the damned, Hayden?” I stood there waiting for an answer. I wanted him to come through for me. I wanted him to snap out of his awestruck idiocy and tell me exactly what I needed to hear. My faith in all things was diminishing; the higher power, humanity, love and innocence. And Hayden was the only one who could bring me back.
He rose from the bed, walking up to me slowly. I took a deep breath and held it, waiting for my angel to restore my faith, waiting for that one thing that would make me understand it all. I lifted my head and looked into his eyes, pleadingly, still waiting.
“Evika,” he said, “I’m sorry. I don’t know.”
I let out the air of the breath I’d held, much like the deflation that my heart felt in that very moment, hearing those words from him. I don’t know.
I turned to the window and gazed out at the evening air. The sun had already set, leaving us with the darkness.