Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Saturday, September 18, 2010
I was pretty sure if I sat huddled in the corner of the shower stall that eventually I’d have to wake up. He’d tried to come in to talk to me a few times. It seemed to work to just cover my ears and scrunch my eyes closed.
This couldn’t be happening. This couldn’t be happening.
I felt someone else come sit in front of me. Whoever it was… I was pretty sure they’d go away if I didn’t ever talk to them.
That’s when I got flicked in the forehead.
That was just mean.
I could ignore it.
I got flicked again.
“Honor, I don’t really think....,” I heard Cole say just before a door slammed.
“Hey! Princess!” she shouted just as she flicked me again.
I jumped out of my ball and attacked her. I don’t know where the rage came from. I mean, her flicking my head was pretty annoying, but this sort of outdid that. I threw her into shower door, and it shattered.
She got up stiffly and said, “Wow! I never would have guessed you had that in you.”
“HONOR?” Reeve shouted.
“I’m fine! Just tripped,” she said and then slammed me against the shower wall. I felt it crack from the force. “Callie just tripped too.”
“Look! I was ready to be dead! I was planning on being dead today!” I shouted at her. All of the frustration I’d kept bottled up inside me for so many years exploded out of me. I never confronted any of it. I just kept pushing it deeper. “Do you know what it’s like to know you won’t see your twenty-fifth birthday?” I said, pushing up off the wall.
She rolled her eyes. “I’m four years old! I woke up in a field NAKED four years ago where I grew out of the ground. I’ve been chased by every version of hell on the market since then. Every morning I was a little surprised to be alive. Most Shadow Hunters probably don’t even make it to their fourth birthday.”
“My heart stopped beating today, and I’m still here! I don’t even know if I have a heart anymore! I feel like a freak!”
“YEAH? Let me go cry a little in your corner!” she shouted back.
It happened so fast it was nearly reflex. I kicked her in the stomach. She slammed against the wall near the door. Honor shook her head, dove, and grabbed my leg out from under me. I hit the ground with a crack.
Oh… it was on.
She stood over me with her hands on her hips.
“Now! You’re going to need to buck up, Buttercup, because you have everything I’ve ever wanted and seeing you cry about it just really, really, really chaps my hide.”
I swept her leg out from under her. “You listen to me, Rambo! My mother is dead. My father ran out on us when I was a kid. I was finally doing well. I was about to finish my Doctorate in Medieval Studies. Then, I went in for some routine testing….”
“Buh blah blah blah…. What on earth were you going to do with a freaking doctorate in something that happened eight hundred years ago?” she said, using her hands to make ‘yakkity yak’ signs.
I dove at her, and we rolled across the floor a few times.
There was more pounding on the door.
“GO AWAY!” we both shouted at once.
She ended up on top, and she hit my head into the floor. “Do you know what happened to me? I was kidnapped….” Bang! My head hit the floor. “He was planning on killing me!” Bang! “He promised to rip me to shreds with his teeth and drink a toast to me with my blood!” Bang! “You’re whining about not finishing a thesis? You spoiled….”
I kicked her off me, and she slammed back inside the shower and hit the wall where I had a little bit ago.
I got to my feet and said offhand, “You’re still alive! So, clearly, you didn’t get toasted or have your entrails kicked about!”
She dropped into a crouch with snarl. “I spent the night in a freaking beaver lodge. I’ve never stayed more than four months in a place anywhere other than L.A. where Shifts ate my roommate because she borrowed my coat. So, once again… Sell your sob story to someone who has had a family… or a life… or a home!”
“This was your life, though! I stopped to help a guy who looked like a horror flick, and he kissed me and now I’m this freak who eats wolves.” I picked up a bar of soap and threw it at her. She caught it easily.
Honor looked at the soap and looked at me with a clear expression of “Are you kidding me? We’re throwing soap?”
I shrugged. Sometimes you worked with what was available.
She tossed the soap up in the air once and shouted, “So! Have you taken a look at the other freaks who eat wolves? Wolf does a body good, chick!” She beamed me in the head with the soap. Wow. She had good aim. “I was about to make it to step 3 with one of them, and I got called back here to deal with your little mental breakdown!” Honor yanked the towel bar on the shower stall door free and hit it against her hand. “Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get a little privacy around here?” She slammed the towel bar against the wall. “Did you hear that, all of you out there? Of course you did! You always do! Because there is no freaking privacy! I live in a FISHBOWL surrounded by vampires!”
I grabbed the towel rod off the wall. I wasn’t sure how well I could use a towel rod as a staff, but I was just about to find out.
Suddenly, a scent assailed my senses, and my eyes watered from the strength. It wasn’t bad, but it smelled a little like cooking with honey.
“What’s that smell?” I asked. “It smells sweet, rusty, and hot.”
“Probably my back,” she said blandly, tossing the towel bar into the corner. “I cut it pretty bad when you slammed me through the shower door. I think your guy just had to call in reinforcements to restrain Reeve so he didn’t come see why I’m bleeding all over.”
All the fight went out of me in a whoosh. For some reason, it had never occurred to me that she might be hurt.
“My guy?” I asked, dropping the towel rod and getting the towel from it wet.
“Yeah. The Master is completely sweet on you. It’s gooey and disgusting.” She turned, pulling her off her shirt.
“HOLY COW! Why didn’t you tell me you were so hurt?” I asked. There were deep gouges all over her back.
“Are you kidding? That was a lot of fun! I feel a lot better. It was hilarious when the soap nearly knocked you off your feet.” She laughed loudly and actually snorted.
I giggled. “That was really hilarious. When you grabbed my leg that first time, it was awesome.” I blotted the blood on her back. “I’m sorry those monster things killed your room mate.”
“Pamela. Her name was Pamela. You remind me of her. She was a girly girl too. I think you’re more ambitious and intelligent, but she never slammed me through a shower door.”
“Maybe given time,” I suggested and then I realized I was crying.
She turned and started crying too. “I’m sorry that your life changed so much. I was shocked by all this, and I already had been seeing Shifts for years.”
I rubbed at my tears. “The guy that was going to drink your blood? Is he dead? We could go kill him together.”
She sniffed and said, “Really? I’ve never had anyone say that to me before….”
I sniffed and nodded. “That was really wrong.”
She shook her head and said, “It totally was. He is gone, though. I had the earth eat him. It was cool. I can teach you how to aim better,” she said, looking down at the soap.
“Really?” I looked down at the soap. “I've never thrown soap before. It was slippery.”
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
It was only five years. Five years and a chance of one in five that I’d return alive. I poked a stick into the swirling water, catching a small whirlpool and breaking it. This would be the last free day I had… the last time I decided where to go and what to do. Decisions were a luxury item in the Dunn. Decisions like talking to the girl that fished on the shore opposite me. Her long blonde hair would flicker in the sunlight like wheat on the day before harvest, and her laugh would tumble across the water. She was beautiful and elegant and her curves were that of a woman—not a girl. She was from Tanger and while we’d never spoken, in my mind we had. Who would marry her if I never returned? Maybe no one. There were so few males. Sometimes marriage to one girl meant you were taking on the care of all her unmarried sisters.
If I survived, I’d have my choice of females. If I survived.
Before I’d left, I’d been no more than a gelding to the girls around. I was an untouchable. There was no point to looking at a male who was younger than twenty-two. No reason to sow hopes that could be killed when their letter came.
I stabbed at a rock and watched as the soil beneath it spun into the current. What would happen if my letter hadn’t come? Would people have let my time go by quietly and sent their own males off to die? Would I have let them?
Maybe it was as well my letter had come.
Goodbye river. Goodbye fertile ground. Goodbye peace and quiet and hearing the birds in the morning. There were no birds in the Dunn. There was no peace. Not now. Not ever. It was on the front line of defense between the Anbots and the Humans. As long as there were more humans born and the Anbots manufactured more weapons, there would be war. I should be grateful it didn’t spill over into Tereslay. I should be. I wasn’t.
Perhaps it was selfish of me, but I didn’t start this war. I didn’t create the machines that began to feed on us and grow stronger. I would never create a machine smarter than I was. Any fool should have known better than that. I would never insist that every machine have a brain that could be turned against us. I was simply born into this world with its hell.
Father had tried to convince me it would be a growing time for me and I’d come back a man. I knew beneath my father’s word was the word “if.” For the next five years my life would hang on the word “if.” If I survived the first year, I’d most likely survive the next four. If I survived, it might be worth it to me. Veteran sentinels made a lifelong commission and could marry whomever they wanted. If I survived, I might be accepted into town sentinel forces where the worst you’d expect was separating drunks in fights and settling domestic disputes.
It was early, but the girl from Tanger was sliding down the other side of the swift river with a pole. She was sweet as honey and feminine. I waved… sentinel duty was making me bold. It was too late, but that was the way of it. She laughed and waved.
“I leave for duty today,” I yelled above the rushing of the river.
“I’m sorry,” she yelled back.
“What’s your name?” I called. Perhaps I could think about her at night while I tried to shut out the horrors that I’d only heard described. Well, if I wasn’t on night duty…. Perhaps thoughts of her would block out the darkness—the darkness around all hours of the day and night.
“Lauren Fister! What’s your name so that I can watch for you?”
Watch for my name in the casualties, she meant. It was always possible my name would be linked with an award of bravery, but it was still likely to be in the casualties even then.
“NO! Coby!” I yelled.
“Colby?” she yelled.
Eh. Close enough. It was unlikely she’d remember. It was unlikely I’d live.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
I floundered on my nightstand for the flashlight. It was gone too. Crap. Maybe I wasn’t actually awake. Maybe this too was a dream. I pinched my arm. “Oww…” I probably hadn’t needed to pinch that hard.
“Is there someone there?” I asked again.
Was I really expecting someone to answer?
Then, someone did, and I realized I would have preferred them not to.
“Piper?” a raspy snarl said.
“What do you see, Piper?”
Whatever was out there wasn’t human. It sounded like it had teeth. Did you lie to something that sounded like it had a mouth full of teeth?
“Who are you?” I asked.
There was a snicker and the voice hissed, “Don’t you ever answer questions?”
Well, that was just rude. Whatever was out there didn’t know me well enough to make snap judgments like that. “I’ll answer reasonable and intelligent questions put to me face-to-face by people not afraid to show themselves.”
“No, you don’t.” The voice sounded… reptilian. Was it a monster? Was a monster arguing with me? “What do you see, Piper?”
“Where are you, and who are you? If you show yourself, I’ll answer your questions.” I might. I might not. To be fair, until I knew what was in my room, I wasn’t sure what I’d do.
“No, you won’t. Trust me… some things are best done in the dark.” It snickered again.
I rolled my eyes. “Are you some sort of lecherous… thing?”
“Answer my questions, and I’ll hand you your flashlight and be gone.”
“Fine!” I said, nearly shouted. I went still as someone else in the house moved in their sleep and a headboard scraped the wall. No, I couldn’t get anyone else involved in… whatever this was. When no one called out, I whispered, “I can’t see anything. I can’t see in the dark. The doctor calls it the poorest dark adaptation he’s ever seen. He told me to take vitamins….”
“You were too stubborn?”
“No.” Well, a little. “They never worked.” Well, they hadn’t worked in the month I gave them—not even a bit. “Besides, are you supposed to be insulting me… whatever you are?”
“What do you think I am?”
How should I answer that? Whatever it was… I felt the air stir as it prowled in my room. It could see in the dark. It could see well. It didn’t bump into anything. It smelled less sulfurous than the others. This one smelled deeper and richer like a freshly turned field. It was nice. “I don’t know. I don’t know what any of you are.”
“Any of us? So, you have seen something or can see something?”
“I don’t need to. I can feel the air get cold when you’re in here. Some of them knock things over. They move my stuff. Usually you don’t talk, so you’re sort of breaking the rules there.”
“I’m not one of them,” it said.
Whatever that meant. It wasn’t exactly comforting to know that there were different types of monsters living in my room at night. I had multiple bogeymen? That was creepy. “Did you kill my dog?” I asked.
“No.” The end of the word trilled as if its tongue was long.
I had to know. “Did I kill my dog?”
“Shouldn’t you know that?” it asked.
It was mocking me. Of course it was. Why was I expecting whatever haunted me at night to be any kinder than the people that saw me during the day? I swung my legs back into bed. Stumbling around in the dark would probably amuse whatever creature was here tonight. I lay back down and closed my eyes. It would leave or it would kill me, but there was no way I’d just let it make fun of me.
“Shouldn’t you?” it repeated.
“Go away,” I mumbled. “I’m pretending you don’t exist, and it’s more difficult if you’re talking. So, either kill me… or go away.”
“I’m on your side, Piper,” it said.
Right. No one and nothing was on my side. Jester might have been close, but he was dead. My parents wanted to be as long as I didn’t act like I was different in any way. No one was on my side. No one. I was alone in the dark even when it wasn’t dark.
Something heavy fell at my side, and I tried not to jump. The cool smell of metal—steel came with it. The flashlight. I snatched it and a rush of wind fanned my face as I managed to whip it around and slide my thumb along the cylinder to the switch. The light illuminated my empty bedroom… and the curtains blowing around my window. There was a pop and my nightlight flooded the room with its pale blue glow. A moment later, my overhead light flashed on.