Chapter 33 - Isaac
Am I hallucinating?
No, I am not.
Oh. My. God.
“Enver, wait!” I cry as his thumb moves towards the trigger.
He doesn’t take his eyes off Isolde, though he pauses, snapping, “What?”
My heart beats erratically and I take half a step towards her, but then pause. If it’s really her, why would she be here? Barely possible scenarios come to my mind, but they have to be talked over later. Now, I have to stop Enver. “She’s not an Antithetical.”
“I know her,” I explain, staring at Isolde. Yes, it is her. Her face looks like a squashed, half-cooked burger, but this person is definitely Isolde. The mystery bruises and look of misery strikes my heart – what has happened to her?
I feel a rush of elation, then confusion, then worry. What is she doing here? I can’t have mistaken someone else for her – I’ve known Isolde since we were four years old. This battered girl in front of me is her. Doesn’t seem right to call her a girl, though – she looks so old. Not with age, but with experience.
“Isolde?” I call out.
She looks back at me with a fearful expression. “Isaac.” Her voice cracks on the single word.
I continue gaping, while Enver doesn’t shift where his gun is pointing, though he hasn’t shot yet. Isolde’s eyes flicker to him, and I notice that she’s shaking. Well, who wouldn’t, when staring into the face of a gun?
“Isaac, what the hell are you doing?” Enver demands through his teeth.
“Just go back,” I whisper.
“Excuse me?” He must think that I’ve suddenly gone mad. I doubt I’d take it too easily if he stopped me from shooting someone who is obviously not a Hunter.
“Go back,” I repeat impatiently, my voice a bit stronger. “Not an Antithetical.”
“Why is she in here, then?”
“How am I supposed to know?”
Enver is not convinced. “How about shooting first and asking questions later?”
“If you shoot her,” I say slowly, quietly, “I will shoot you. With your own gun.” I am surprised at the rush of fury that rises up in me. This situation is as messed up as it gets, but at least I have found her.
Isolde is not dead.
I relish the words as I say them in my head.
“You’re utterly out of your mind,” Enver says, and his finger presses down on the trigger.
I react automatically, bringing up my elbow to smash it into his face, shoving him as hard as I can with the side of my body. Enver goes down at once, and I snatch his gun up. I fire one shot and turn to Isolde, cold with dread, expecting to find her lying prone on the ground.
Instead, I see her disappear through the trees. I glance back at Enver with hatred. He has made this even more complicated than it was already. I’ve finally found Isolde, and then he goes to try to shoot her. And now she has run off in fright.
I hurtle after her, and she continues to flee. She has always been a faster runner, and she also had a head-start. Her injuries should slow her, but I still don’t even catch a mere glimpse of her. Desperation builds and I stretch myself to breaking point, moving so fast that I’d trip over even a leaf. I can’t lose her again. Can’t.
Eventually, I see a messily tied ponytail, fast moving legs. I don’t dare to shout; I’m in enough trouble as it is, what with shooting Enver . . . I nearly fall as my rash decisions take their toll on my mind. It was stupid to do that. What if an Antithetical gets to him? I push the thought from my mind. Nothing I can do about it right now.
“Isolde!” I say, screaming at a whisper. My heart hurts impossibly – as much as it did when I found out about Gideon’s death. I don’t want to lose her. Please don’t make me lose her. Combined with the loss of my brother, this pain is beyond words.
Isolde turns round, causing her foot to catch under a tree root. Her head whips forward as she collapses ungracefully on top of it, limbs flailing. Before she can scrabble to her feet, I catch her arm, feeling relief so great it makes me dizzy. “It’s only me,” I pant.
The frightened look in her eyes perplexes me. Unexpectedly, I am pushed away. I stare at Isolde’s glistening eyes with surprise. She turns as if to take off again, but then stops and looks at me with conflicted eyes.
“You’re not going to shoot me?” Her voice is wrong. Too weary, too afraid.
“Why would I shoot you?” I ask. What has happened to make her forget our twelve-year friendship? I want to somehow express the joy that has come with finding her, but that seems to be a one-way street.
“Because,” she says, and croaks out the next ridiculous words. “I’m an Antithetical.”
My eyes bulge and I stop breathing. “What?”
She draws in a shaky breath, her fists clenching and unclenching. “I’m an Antithetical,” she repeats. Her sharp green eyes assess my face.
And then it clicks.
Why she is in the NS.
Why she was hiding.
Why she ran away.
Why she looks so terrified.
But it’s not possible. How can Isolde be an Antithetical? I cannot, will not believe it. What proof is there?
As if reading my thoughts, she shows me what I dread. Her left hand lifts slightly, and water blossoms in mid-air, spelling out the hated word.
I take a step back.
No. No no no no no. I stare at her, horror blocking my throat.
She looks back at me sadly. “Go ahead, then,” she says. Her fingers twist together painfully, and her voice shakes. “Shoot me.”
My fingers have curled instinctively around my gun, but I don’t raise my weapon. My mind is in complete turbulence. A part of me stays with denial, another section claims that it is only logical to shoot her, and the last fraction of me wants to completely erase the last ten minutes from my mind. More and more thoughts clamour for my favour, and the commotion doesn’t stop as I try to rationally deal with this, but how can I?
“All along,” I say to her hoarsely, “all along you tricked me –” How could I not have noticed?
“I didn’t trick you. Nothing happened until my sixteenth birthday.”
I think back to the distance she put between us then, and how she really disagreed with me applying to be a Hunter.
She’s telling the truth.
My best friend is an Antithetical. And I didn’t even know it.
I stand in front of her, unsure as to what I should do. I can’t shoot my best friend, disregarding the last dozen years, but I can’t pretend that I never saw her. We have reports to fill in after missions, and big gaping holes in time and the stunned Enver will be extremely suspicious.
What did I get myself into?
Apart from trembling, Isolde hasn’t moved. Her eyes stay fixedly on my face, trying to see into my thoughts, but they are definitely not coherent.
I think of something to say, but nothing reasonable comes to mind except a moaning, ‘why?’ The compromise would just be to leave and act like this never happened, but that obviously won’t work. I’ll have to choose – my friendship with Isolde over her being an Antithetical.
I shake my head. The two words just can’t go together. Such different emotions and reactions they bring.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I ask, high-pitched and plaintive.
“You get sent to RepAnt for not reporting,” Isolde replies, a tremor still in her voice. “I didn’t want that to happen to you. And I couldn’t control it. There were so many incidents . . .”
“The Antithetical in the forest near your house,” I recall. “That was you.” It is half a question, half a statement.
“Yes,” she answers simply.
So she wasn’t missing after all. She just left. And that was why Amanda was so concerned when she was gone for only a small amount of time. All the pieces of the jigsaw slowly fit together, but the biggest question is still to be answered. Who is she, now? I study her closely, but she does not seem rabid or murderous. Depressed, miserable, defeated, vulnerable. Not at all evil. I want to hug her, not kill her.
“So what happens now?” I say.
“You’re holding the gun,” Isolde answers, her eyes dropping to it.
“I’m not going to shoot you,” I whisper gravely. I may be experiencing mixed emotions right now, but I am not that callous. But I can remember the words of hatred I spoke after Gideon’s death, and obviously they were strong. Strong enough to break our years of trust.
“But you can shoot some other Antithetical,” Isolde says.
“Some others are very bad.” I want to mention Gideon, but I can’t bring myself to deal with more pain.
“But you don’t care.” The timidness has disappeared, replaced by anger. “You don’t care who they are or what they’ve been through.”
“No, don’t ’Isolde’ me,” she snaps. She is loud. Too loud. I’m not stupid enough to chide her. She did mention how she couldn’t control her harmful abilities, so I’d rather not take the risk. “You just let yourself get wrapped up hate. Why? Why couldn’t you have done something else?”
She is talking about Gideon. Grief smacks me right in the face, and fury flares. But this exactly what Isolde is talking about. “I wouldn’t push it,” I tell her quietly. “Remember what end of the gun you’re at.” I regret the words the second they’re out of my mouth.
Isolde’s battered face twists in hurt, then she smoothes her expression, but a sting lingers. “Fine,” Isolde says, calmly, solemnly. “I’m sorry what life has done to you. Because the Isaac I knew would never say something like that.”
She is right. I should apologise, but instead I say, “The Isaac you knew is gone.”
“Why?” she asks emphatically, throwing her hands in the air. “Ask yourself: why?”
“Because Gideon is gone.” I stop myself from looking away as my eyes sting.
“Do you think he would be happy to see you like this? Angling your gun at me?”
“Shut up,” I snap, but my voice decides to break in the middle, taking all the ferocity out of the words.
Isolde shakes her head. “No, Isaac. You –”
My fingers jerks, pressing down on the trigger of my gun.
Isolde goes down at once, and a cold sensation shoots up my spine when I realise what I’ve done.
Oh, God, please no.
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