Antithetical

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Chapter 16 - Isolde

When I go to Isaac’s house after school, I am surprised to find him up and moving about. He looks animated. Not quite excited or happy, but much better than yesterday.

An involuntary smile stretches across my face. Something good must have happened.

“I’ve thought of something,” Isaac says when I enter.

Ann dips her head with a weak smile and goes upstairs.

“Yeah?”

He nods. “I felt that I had to do something,” he tells me. “For Gideon.” Isaac pauses, producing a letter, which he presses into my right hand. “I sent in an application to the Arc.” He smiles a bit, his brown eyes alight with hope. “I applied to become an Antithetical Hunter.”

Something intangible slams into my chest, and I feel like the breath has been knocked out of me. I turn away quickly before he sees the expression on my face. I was right. He hates who I am.

“What’s wrong?” Isaac asks, sounding concerned and confused.

That you want to kill me.

“Just feel a little sick,” I lie. I straighten up and turn again, careful not to look directly into his eyes.

“I have Dr Amadeus on speed dial,” Isaac says, a wry tinge in his voice.

“I’m OK,” I lie again.

“Right.” He continues walking the length of his living room and back. I sit on the sofa, busy falling apart inside. My eyes slide across the room, looking at the wooden panels lining the walls. I like them – they give a cosy atmosphere. Not that Isaac’s Dad makes things cosy. I notice that the pictures that used to be hung up on the wall are gone. Only the ones with Gideon in them, though . . .

I sniff, and realise that Isaac is staring at me. “What?”

“So what do you think?” he asks me, sounding a little impatient, like this is the fifth time he’s told me. Which it probably is.

I think that I’m about to start crying.

“I can’t get my head around you going to kill people,” I choke out, grimacing. Antithetical Hunters don’t kill nearly as many as they stun, but still.

“Euphemistic,” Isaac says sarcastically, rolling his eyes. “I just want to stop murdering barbarians. Not necessarily kill them.”

The word ‘necessarily’ makes me squirm. My face twists uncomfortably. “Only murdering barbarians?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, if you come across an Antithetical in the non-sector who can, I don’t know, change into a rabbit, but who isn’t harming anyone, would you kill them?”

“No; you aren’t allowed to kill them if they haven’t harmed. You take them to Confinement. They only sometimes get killed in hand-to-hand combat.” He frowns. “Why?”

I shrug, trying to be nonchalant. “Soft, merciful me,” I murmur.

“You’re not happy about it, are you?”

“Not really,” I admit. “I’d rather you not raise your head above the parapet.”

He stops walking about and speaks with utter conviction. “It’s what I want to do.”

“I’m not going to stop you, then,” I say faintly. My mind screams the opposite.

“I’ll be alright. Really.” He looks at the envelope still in my hands, lost in thought. “Gideon’s killer, though . . . if I get my hands on him, well . . .” He trails off, and I look away. The expression on his face scares me so much.

“Would you go post that?” Isaac asks me after a while.

“Sure,” I fib.

I’ll burn it. Rip it into shreds. ’Accidentally’ drop it down a drain.

“I’ll be back soon,” I say, getting up and quickly escaping. I don’t know how much longer I would be able to keep the act up.

On my way to the post office, I think about how to make sure the form doesn’t get to the Arc, then sigh. Isaac would be miserable again if he doesn’t get in. I can tell how passionate he is about joining the AH, but it hurts that he’s so willing to kill or confine every Antithetical he will come across.

I reach the post box, and stare at it. Half my mind tells me to quickly destroy the letter, the other half says to respect Isaac’s wishes. Without thinking, my hand darts up and the envelope disappears inside the hole. I swallow, immediately regretting it. I want to break apart the post-box and retrieve the letter, then toss it into a bonfire. Instead, I walk back to Isaac’s house.

This complicates things even more. I’m too much of a coward to tell him about me, but I can’t just watch him hunt down the Antithetical just because they’re the Antithetical.

All I can do now is hope that he is declined.

*

“I’m guessing that you don’t want to go out the door,” I say.

“Nope,” Isaac replies, putting some more pasta in his mouth.

“And you don’t want to talk.”

Isaac directs a poisonous look at me.

I sigh.

“Fine. Let’s talk.” He puts down his bowl. “What was it that was bothering you a while ago? That you wouldn’t tell me about?”

I press my lips together, instantly on my guard.

“You don’t talk, I won’t talk,” Isaac says stubbornly. He resumes eating while I silently fume.

I decide to change the topic. “When are you coming back to school?”

“I’m not,” he replies casually.

“What?”

“No more compulsory education,” he reminds me. “I’m dropping out. Can’t be an AH if I’m still in school.”

I look away, hiding my expression of disapproval. “OK,” I say.

Not OK.

“I’ll get back home,” I say, standing up. “I’ll see you.”

“Bye,” Isaac says.

I smile feebly and exit.

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