“Stop the car!” I shout, already halfway out of the truck before Abraham brings it to a full stop.
My feet hit the ground and I tuck them under me, dirt flying up as I roll. I pull myself upright and break into a full sprint, bounding as fast as my body will allow me to towards the almost fully demolished warehouse in front of me.
I slow my pace once I am at its entrance, whisper the words under my breath that is needed to protect me from the evil lurking inside.
The building grows darker the further I walk into it, the feeling of deja vu prickling the hair on the back of my neck. I’ve been here before, back during a time when I believed that the things I saw in my sleep were merely nightmares and not a hint of what was to come.
I know how this could end and it doesn’t bode well for me. I know that this tactic, leeching all of the light from the room, is one frequently used to throw off its prey and leave them feeling lost.
Good thing I am used to working without the light.
Something stirs in the far right corner and I jerk my head in that direction, moving just in time to see the creature slither into a nearby room.
I forego my training and follow after it, slamming face-first into the largest Mystran that I have ever encountered. It launches its all black body at me, furiously trying to break through the shield protecting my mind.
The impact sends me flying across the destroyed room, my back slamming into one of the cement walls. I crumple to the floor, wheezing loudly as the Mystran readies itself for a second attack.
“Not today, asshole.” I roll out of the way as it charges for me, feeling the frigid wind biting at my skin as it brushes past me.
A vicious smile spreads across my lips as I pull myself to my feet, dusting my clothes off before taking off down the hall and away from the beast.
I am halfway down it when Abraham jumps from the exposed wooden railing above me, landing perfectly on his feet. He pulls me into the darkened room to our left, his hand clamping down over my mouth to silence the sounds of my heavy breathing.
“Did you lose it?” he questions, his voice barely above a whisper.
Glass explodes around us and it is all the answer he needs to grab my hand, yanking me out of the room and back into the hallway.
“Didn’t you learn your lesson the first time?” he shouts over his shoulder as he leads me away from the glass covered room. “Never mind, of course you didn’t. You never learn, no matter how many times I show you something.”
We turn the corner and I slide, slipping under one of the many fallen support beams littering our path. My shoulder slams into the door in front of me but it does not budge, the wood so warped from the constant berating of rain that it has almost fully fused to the frame beside it.
The howling behind us increases and what little light is left in the building begins to fade away.
We need to get this thing outside where it will have fewer corners to hide in.
Abraham grabs onto the windowsill next to us, his fingers clasping around my wrist to pull me up next to him. He grabs the metal knob on the frame and pulls but, seeing as luck is not on our side today, the entire thing breaks off.
The old building groans as the Mystran continues closing in on us, threatening to bring itself toppling down on our heads as punishment for even daring to enter. The rood trembles and large chunks of cement roofing loosen, only seconds away from falling down to crush us.
Abraham reaches forward, his long arms wrapping around me protectively, using our combined weight to launch us back through the thick glass and sending up falling six feet to the ground below.
He releases me as we collide with the wet soil and I roll onto my back, struggling to breathe as the Mystran oozes out of the broken window and into the light. It doubles in size in the open space, slinking threateningly towards us.
“Îngheţa!” I shout, my hand extending in front of me. The spirit freezes in its tracks, frozen by the hold I have put on it. It struggles but it is no match for my strength. “Expulza!”
I watch as the giant being begins to shake, its edges blurring like static on an old television. It contorts, curling into itself as it releases one last howl and vanishes.
Letting out a sigh of relief, I finally allow myself to relax into the soggy ground. A fire erupts in my chest and I know that there is a good chance that I have broken a rib or seven.
“Don’t move,” Abraham commands, rushing to my side as he finally recovered from taking the brunt of the fall. “Just remain still while I take care of this.”
He lifts up my now torn shirt, revealing the garish bruises that have already begun to blossom across my torso.
His touch is tender and light but I flinch anyway, sending more hot flames rushing into my lungs.
“Well, it looks like you have managed to break every single one of your ribs,” he grips, eyes focused down on the task at hand. “Stop squirming or you’re going to puncture a lung. I think you just beat your own record for the number of bones broken at one time. Hell, you might have broken a record in general.”
I grimace through a smile. “That was the last one. That’s it, there are no more. It’s over.”
“Congratulations,” he replies as unenthusiastically as possible. “It only took a few years and you breaking every damn bone in your body to accomplish.”
“Worth it,” I grit through clenched teeth.
“Vindecați și reparați.” Abraham presses lightly on the darkest of my bruises and a coolness rushes through me.
I close my eyes, savoring the tingle that overwhelms me as my muscles and bones stitch themselves back together.
Within minutes, I am fully healed and breathing easy. Abraham guides me off the ground and back to my feet, tossing me a judgmental glare before storming away and back towards his still running truck.
The ride back to camp is a silent one.
He grips the steering wheel tightly, his knuckles white from the pressure as anger fills every feature on his dirt covered face. The weight of his fury fills the small cabin and I crack a window in hopes of letting it out, too busy celebrating my victory to acknowledge his displeasure.
I know that my impulsive and self-destructive behavior is the main reason for his madness, but I have put too much time and effort into my mission just to have turned back simply because we weren’t expecting to run into a Mystran on our way from town.
He speeds into the dusty lot that houses our tribe, slamming on the breaks. Still seething, he hops out of the truck, grabs the bags of groceries we picked up from the small market in town, slams the door, and then storms off the old RV he calls home.
“That was quite foolish of you,” Meiva judges as she comes to stand next to me, staring at the rust covered RV with me. “Has the past taught you nothing about how to handle the present?”
I glance over at the bronze-skinned fortune teller, watching a strand of her sun-kissed hair blowing in the wind. “Only that nothing is set in stone. One simple act of defiance is all it takes to change how things are supposed to end. He will get over it, he always does.”
She crosses her thin arms across her chest. “I warned you before you left not to make any rash decisions today. Things could have ended differently if he had not been able to find that window.”
“You trained him well,” I compliment, wiping the sweat from my forehead as a smile tugs at the corner of her lips. “Or was that less about his training and more about a warning you gave him before we left? You know what? It doesn’t actually matter because it is all over now. That was it, the last of them. There are none left. I am finally safe.”
She laughs to herself, pausing halfway through a chuckle as her eyes glaze over. “That kind of thinking is foolish, you will never be safe. That war has just begun and it will not be deterred. Something ancient and powerful calls for your blood. It mourns its losses, displeased that you have discarded if its minions. Safety is not what lies in wait for you.”
“Something ancient and powerful calls for my blood? Hm, must be Tuesday. Well, if you happen across this evil, let it know that I would appreciate it if it got off its lazy ass and came for me itself.”
I leave Meiva to her ominous premonitions, making my way over to Abraham’s RV. I open the door and he turns his back to me, his hands splayed out on the chipped paint counter.
He lowers his head, letting out an exhausted sigh. “You didn’t even stop to think. You just threw yourself out of the truck and headfirst into danger without one ounce of hesitation. You of all people should have known how stupid of a move that was. You knew how things could have played out. Just because you have seen something before doesn’t mean there is always a chance to change it. Nothing is set in stone but some things have to happen in order to maintain balance. You had no idea what was waiting for you in that building. It could have been a trap and you were okay just waltzing right into it.”
“I have spent months trying to lure that thing out of hiding. Months! I knew enough about what might happen not to make the same mistakes. What else was I supposed to do? Wait it out? Who knows how long it would have been before we saw that Mystran again! I wasn’t raised like you were, I don’t know how to hunt them as easily. No, it needed to happen right then.”
“You just don’t get it, do you?” He shakes his head wearily, sweat dripping off his matted brown locks. “Or maybe you do and you just don’t give a damn. All you ever think about is yourself and your damn mission. Do you have any regard for your own life?”
“Of course I do.”
“Then why are you always finding new and inventive ways to put yourself in danger? Singurul mea, just because I can heal you doesn’t give you the right to keep risking your life!” He spins on his heels to face me. “Just because you are what you are doesn’t make you invincible. What you did was selfish and you know it. I am tired of spending week after week patching up injuries that could have been prevented had you just taken one moment to think a situation through.
Singurul mea, my only one, Abraham’s nickname for me for the longest time.
I remain silent, allowing his words to sink in.
Ever since I arrived here and Meiva explained to me what I was and what I would eventually become, I have not stopped moving.
I threw myself into my training, determined to distract myself from anything other than the truth. Since then, I have done everything I can think of to keep my mind occupied, even hunting down any and every Mystran that has wandered into our town in search of me.
I drop my guard and shoot him an apologetic look. “Look, I thought if I could expel them all then I would be safe. I thought it would mean finally being able to relax and move on. I thought it would make knowing what I am easier but-” I pause, watching Meiva come out of her trance and scurry off towards one of the small houses. “I guess I was wrong. Your mother has been watching us again, searching through our futures. She did it before we left, which is why I guess she felt the need to tell me to behave today and you to look for a window. I swear, that woman doesn’t trust me at all when it comes to matters involving you. She came to me the second we got back just so that she could lecture me the same way you are. Like mother, like son. I was hoping she had come to deliver some good news but, as always, she is the bearer of bad tidings. Apparently, the Mystrans were just the beginning of some big war that is coming. Something has been sending those spirits after me, something that is now super pissed because I’m still alive and kicking. I need to find out what is all behind this. I need to know why me.”
“I know you do,” he sighs, resting his hand on my hip. “I am just petrified that something is going to happen and that I am going to lose you.”
He leans in, his breath cool against my skin as his lips brush over my cheek. Chills race across my skin, something hungry aching inside of me, and I take a moment to enjoy what I know I will have to stop.
He pulls away, rejection reflection in his honey colored eyes. “Why not? Why do you always stop yourself from letting me in? Even after all of this time, knowing the things you know, why won’t you just open up to me? You keep yourself locked away in your head, only letting me know the things you think I should know. It isn’t fair. I am nothing but transparent with you but, still, you refuse to let me in. You know that there isn’t a thing in this world I wouldn’t do for you, right?”
“I know but I, we just can’t.”
“Because of him?” Jealousy erupts into the air. “You barely knew him. You haven’t seen him in years! What makes you think he hasn’t moved on already? Does he even know you’re alive? Does he even know what is going on here?”
He gives me no time to respond, choosing to abandon our conversation and head down the short hall. He slams the paper-thin partition closed, cutting on the shower.
Guilt wracks through me, settling in the pit of my stomach.
Abraham is the first person I remember meeting when I arrived here and, by then, the bond between us was already strong from the time he had spent inside of my head.
The first time he spoke I knew it was him, the voice I had once passed off as a symptom of my own insanity.
I learned quickly that he was the tribe’s healer and a damn good one at that. He needed that strength as he had his work more than cut out for him when it came to me. My body was a wreck and I was barely clinging to life. It had taken him weeks to reverse the damage I had done to myself, his voice a whisper in my mind as he told me that he had me and that everything was going to be fine.
Our bond only strengthened as he nursed me back to health. For him, that bond was and had been something more than just the strange connection between the two of us but I wasn’t sure where I stood when it came to how I felt about him. I knew that our lives were fused together in more ways than one, a vision that has yet to change, but my mind has not come to terms with the reality of it.
Where he feels affection and loyalty, I feel hesitation and confusion.
I care for Abraham, but not in a way where I am able to show it to him. There is a certain unspoken-ness between us, one that I never care to talk about.
It is just that there is a part of me that won’t allow me to take the steps needed to secure the things that have been seen, a part of me that failed to revive when I did. It is the same part that only stirs in the scarce moments in which I allow myself to think about the past, back to those moments and the storm cloud eyes that haunt my memories.