THERON II

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TEN.

THERON

One.

Two.

Three.

That’s me.

Banging my head on this fucking window because being comatose is hella better than listening to Bug ramble on for one more fucking minute.

The kid has not shut her trap for longer than five seconds since we hopped in this damn semi and I’m fantasizing about what it would have been like if she actually did stay behind.

Peaceful and quiet.

That’s what it would have been.

But because I’m a fucking idiot with an irrational fear of loneliness, I’ve had to endure four and a half goddamn hours of her childlike voice going non fucking stop and I cannot handle much more.

Not that she’s talking to me. Oh, no. Apparently, Bug’s forgiveness only comes in progressive steps. The fact that she is even by my side is just step one. Step Two might possibly be the end of her silent treatment but as of now, that’s not even a blimp on the radar in the foreseeable future.

But suddenly everything changes.

In the blink of an eye, my senses perk up. My body tenses and my eyes are frantically scanning the scenery for the reasoning behind my sudden instinctual switch in demeanor.

The snow isn’t as deep or abundant in Tennessee, most of it melting under the warm sun and leaving a muddy, slushy mess behind. The moist terrain accentuates hundreds of different scents and the anticipation with me is almost overwhelming.

There’s something here...

Something in Tennessee.

My leg bounces up and down, an unconscious bodily attempt to alleviate the overabundance of adrenaline that is steadily flowing through my veins.

“Hey! Whats your tattoo about,” Bug pierces the haze that had suddenly and rapidly consumed me and I welcome the distraction with open fucking arms. I watch as she studies the trucker’s forearm in pure, innocent curiosity.

It’s a very detailed and colorful image. The moon sits high in the sky, somewhat blocked by a grey and white wolf with its head thrown back in a frozen howl. The woodlands around it are green and lush and thick and I somehow find comfort in this artwork, though I don’t understand why.

“Oh,” he appears surprised, peeking away from the road to study his arm. He shrugs, nonchalantly, “it don’t mean nothing. I just like wolves.”

“B.G. has a tattoo as well, don’t cha big guy?” She looks to me excitedly, as if tattoos are the most riviting thing in all the world... and apparently we have took a left fucking turn into Step Two territory. I only nod with a half hearted, “Yeah.” My soul’s attention is split between the going ons inside of the semi and out.

A stark contrast.

She doesn’t bother to inquire about the meaning behind mine though... She knows I don’t remember. But the full moon on his forearm is enough for her to draw a connection to the image on my own skin.

The drawing I sport sits in an awkward spot in between the crook of my neck and my left clavicle and I probably got it one wild and crazy drunken night with the friends I’m sure I have but do not fucking recall.

Atleast, that’s the explanation I imagine because I can’t understand why anyone would place a tattoo in such a precarious area.

Its idiotic.

The ink is about two times smaller than my fist. It’s black and simplistic and not nearly as eye popping as the trucker’s but it shows the moon as well. It’s not a full moon but a waxing crescent with four claw marks slashed through it so it’s only natural it would spark recognition in the mind of a twelve year old.

Normally, I don’t give my tattoo much thought. While I sometimes question what I was thinking when I got it, the thought of not having it physically pains me. It’s a deep, dull, longing ache in my heart so I do not regret its place upon my body, regardless of how unpopular a spot it’s on. I wouldn’t trade it for anyone else’s, no matter how perfectly done another’s may appear.

Without warning, my head instinctually snaps to the right, urging me to investigate the sudden sweet scent that has taken hold of my keen nose. I dont even care if I’m lifting my head in the air, sniffing feverishly like a fucking dog.

I roll my window down quickly, almost frantically and before I can even consider the words that fly out of my mouth, they are long gone, drifting away with the smell of almonds and cashmere and home.

“Stop the vehicle.”

“What?” The truck appears baffled, “I can’t do that! We’re in the middle of the highway with no shoulder!” Which is true. The mountainous road has no pull off. My side is snug against the rocky forest and his is too close to the incoming traffic and a steep drop off beside that.

But I don’t care.

Panic flares within me--if he doesn’t stop, I may lose this scent and something deep within my soul screams at me to find the source.

Find Lina.

Because she is here.

With that panic comes an underlying fury. It’s warm at first, like embers in a dying fire but the longer he drives, the further away the scent recedes, the higher the flames become and the hotter the fire rages. “STOP NOW!” A terrifying, unnatural roar stems from my chest. It shakes the cab of the truck and is quickly followed by the screeching of tires and the honking of pissed off motorists from behind us.

I don’t wait for him to come to a complete halt before throwing open my door and jumping out.

My heart is being pulled into the woods, now only attached to an imaginary string that yanks me deeper within the mountains.

The landscape is rocky; muddy. I slip and slide climbing upward, down and around the rocks, trees and mossy outcrops. My nostrils flare, in and out.

In and out.

My heart may already know the way, but my nose keeps a constant calming reassurance to the truth the pumping organ within my chest insists is here.

Only one word keeps repeating inside my head.

One name...

Lina.

It keeps with the tempo of my beating heart and as we inch ever closer it’s becoming more and more difficult to control the excitement that builds inside me.

“Where are we going?” Bug yells from behind me and I can’t recall hearing her leave the truck. I didn’t listen to if she followed me or not.

But I can feel ashamed of that later.

“I found her,” I replied, dazed. I can’t believe I finally found her.

Bug huffs, her breathing harder and more difficult to expel the longer we trek through the rocky terrain, “Who?”

“Lina.”

“Lina?” She sounds startled, almost surprised, “You’ve been looking for a person this whole time?” I only nod, not certain she can see me since I am paces in front of her, facing the opposite direction, but I do not trust my voice right now. It may betray my outwardly cool facade.

“You said you were looking for a thing. Shit, B.G., I thought you meant like the holy grail or somethin’, not an actual person!”

The ground levels off and I pause. The scent is stronger now and I need to continue on but my forward momentum is swiftly terminated by the distant sounds of thumping paws against the earth. My heart lurches in a disconcerting blend of dismay and alarm.

I push Bug behind me, guarding her. My eyes flicker around the woods searching for the exact direction danger may come from. She is asking me what’s happening... what’s going on but I can’t focus on her right now. I have to pay attention to my surroundings. I have to anticipate what is headed our way.

It is fast.

No...

Not it.

They.

There is more than one and they are fast. Growling, snarling and barrelling straight towards us.

Bug screams as two wolves burst through the underbrush. Their lips are curled back, teeth on full and deadly display. Saliva drips from their mouths and frothy foam spraying from their snouts as they skid to a grinding standstill with raised hackles.

And they are huge.

I have seen wolves before. I know exactly how big they are in real life but these wolves can only be described as monstrous. Not big like horses or bears but I’m positive their heads come right up to the plate of my breast bone... at the lowest point, possibly my abs.

These are not normal wolves.

Almost as if confirming my suspicions, their black coated fur is caught by the rays of the sun and it illuminates the colored tinge to their pelts... Blue and yellow and once again, not fucking normal.

I realize, only seconds too late, that I have encroached upon their territory and I curse my lack of caution. I should have been more aware, especially with Bug in tow and because of my lax judgement we are now going to pay the price.

What seems like a typical feral situation turns strange instantly as a human man runs out of the woods from the same direction. He’s shorter than me, maybe six foot with sandy brown hair that falls in front of his eyes... the same eyes that widen in baffled amazement, “Theron?”

As if on cue, the wolves relax. Their tails begin to wag--slowly at first, but increasing in pace the longer they stare at us. The atmosphere changes as well... the tension dissipates, and the air is lighter, almost joyful and I am bewildered by the shift in emotions.

I do not linger on it long however because more footsteps are coming.

Human footsteps.

My ears perk. My nose catches the only scent that matters right now and I wait with bated breath to see her.

And when she finally steps into the clearing, when her eyes finally land on me, anything and everything I had ever imagined her to be pales in comparison to the ethereal beauty that stands before me.

The world seems to stop and time is suspended and the only two people in this specific area are me and her.

"Lina,” a beastly demonic voice whines inside my head. The sound is gravely, animalistic and primal... and disturbing because I know that did not come from my own thoughts.

It is the monster inside me.

The one who sees, hears and smells better than the average human.

The one with grotesque and deadly claws for weapons.

The one with teeth used for ripping jugulars.

It knows Lina... and Lina knows me.

Her hands fly to her mouth and her eyes are big and wide; brown and alluring... and she has thrown caution to the wind as she approaches me, hastily.

Her scent wraps around me, flowing... moving like a spiral tornado and I want nothing more to bask in it. Every step she takes seems agonizingly slower than I am sure it really is but the anticipation is bubbling within me, ready and willing to flow over and out.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Bug steps in front of me, her hands held out before her, “You can’t come at us all hot like that, lady! We don’t know you.”

Lina ceases her steps and my heart falls.

She can’t stop.

I need her closer... and now I must scramble for something, anything, that may draw her near. “She is Lina,” I state, my eyes never straying from the woman before me.

Flashes of past memories spin through my head. Like a movie on a reel, they are quick, soundless and make absolutely no sense.

A young Lina, sitting on the floor playing with dolls by the fireplace...

Pointing at the clouds in the sky...

Tucked in bed, sleeping peacefully.

Older Lina laughing, smiling at me...

Running with me...

Crying within my arms.

“You found her,” Bug is in awe, glancing between the two of us.

“And I am... Theron?” I think that’s what she called me... what the sandy brown haired boy said. Lina nods her head in puzzled astonishment and I can’t help but chuckle, “Thank god it isn’t Brad.”

That would have fucking sucked.

Lina’s brows turn downwards and she purses her plump, pink lips... lips I have a sudden and surprising urge to feel against mine and I am now praying to every deity and god that may or may not exist that Lina and I are not related because that would suck even harder.

Fuck all, I would tolerate the name Brad so long as she wasn’t part of my family tree.

Another picture takes hold of me. It burst forth from the deepest recesses of my mind... or my imagination because surely I am so beneath this epitome of perfection that things between us would never go that far and yet I see her.

Her head thrown back, eyes closed in the midst of sexual exhilaration. Her face is flush, her mouth slack and her blonde hair sweaty and tasseled.

I bite my lip and suppress the need to groan.

Now is not the time.

Her eyes take in every part of me as she moves tentatively forward.

Ever closer...

She reaches her hand out, her finger tips brush the hair that covers my forehead. I want to move into her touch. I want to feel her skin against mine but when her eyes connect with me, my heart suddenly drops.

Her gaze narrows in disgust and confusion, “Is this some sort of sick joke?”

I am taken aback, startled by her intense and instant rejection. The monster within my head whimpers and I know this is not good. My chest constricts, tightening and refusing to allow oxygen to reach my lungs.

“You are not Theron,” she seethes through her clenched teeth, repulsed.

“Lina!” A man behind her rebukes, his head snapping to her. I must have missed his advancement when the earth quit spinning and my lungs stopped working. He has a beard and tattooed arms and seems familiar but I just cannot place him. Currently though, he is the least of my concerns.

“Look at him, DeLoren! That isn’t Theron! This has Mavina written all over it!”

Mavina?

What’s a Mavina?

“The girl can stay but get him off my property,” she turns her back on me as if I am no longer worth her time.

And there it is again.

Panic.

Anxiety.

Heartbreak and anguish.

But the deep desire to have her eyes on me once more is too aggressive. Its wills me to argue, to plead, to say fucking something because I am losing her and I did not come all this way and spend all this time in search for her just to be dismissed so hatefully.

Fuck that.

“I remember you,” I called to her. Her body becomes rigid, her steps frozen. When she looks over her shoulder my heart flutters and I know I have her attention... I will not waste this opportunity.

“It’s only flashes of memory... bits and pieces that are scattered and fractured and foggy and they don’t really make any sense to me yet, but... I still see you.” I won’t specify that this is a recent occurrence, obviously, but it’s enough truth to comfortably speak aloud, “I always only see you.”

“Your hair is darker,” I add, mostly as an afterth bgought but it works as evidence. I remember her when she was still blonde... at least that’s what the memories are showing me. Her hair is almost black now but I did not fail to notice when the sunlight hits it, there’s a dark maroon tint that reveals itself, just love the blue and yellow fur of the wolves. It looks good on her but I prefer the blonde and hope she eventually changes it back.

“Get a shower,” she grumbles, “dinner will be ready soon.”

My eyes follow her slowly withdrawing figure and I feel a mixture of both happiness and sadness simultaneously. At the very least, she left me with a tiny spark of hope.

The bearded guy slaps a hand on my shoulder, and grins, “Good to have you back, bro.”

I think only time will tell if it is, indeed, good to be back.

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