There’s something that I’ve always been afraid to do.
I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I have always considered myself a learning writer. A novice. A padawan.
Maybe it’s because I’ve always been insecure about my writing. I mean the craft itself is something that I truly take to heart. It’s very personal to me. Sometimes I feel I think too much about it. An almost OCD-like approach.
Writing is my passion and I’ve realised that it’s…
…time to relax. It’s time to let go. It’s time just to put it out there 🙂
Part and parcel of being a good writer, I feel, is taking constructive criticism (and praise where you can get it!). I’ve been working on a few projects these last few months and I feel I’ve grown.
And now it’s time to let other people read my work..online. I’ve passed work to close friends but never publicly. That’s what I’ve been missing in my approach to my craft.
I’m taking more risks with my writing now, having fun and developing myself along the way. I’ve also uncovered some of my old writing–that has been fermenting in my harddrive– and are still projects I would like to see come to fruition.
My aim, truly, is to produce, write and develop my own content. I want to write a novel. It’s a goal of mine – and I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. I’ve written 4 so far and although I consider some as ‘training’, I feel I’m slowly developing a volume of work.
And I couldn’t think of a better way to take a step in a new (and slightly scary) direction, than to post a piece of my writing online for others to read…and hopefully…enjoy.
So here goes (gulp).
What you are about to read are the first 3 chapters of a novel I started in early 2011 called Birthright. It’s a teenage romance/ science fiction tale set in a dystopian slum in the future.
I basically tried to focus on developing my writing style, on creating memorable characters and building intrigue and suspense.
Here’s a brief synopsis:
Set in an unknown future upon the dystopian outskirts of ‘The City’ — Birthright is a tale of two teenagers, a promise, and the deadly powers that threaten to tear them apart. In a world where individuals and families have ‘Birthrights’ — horrifying abilities with voodoo origins — Anthony, the son of a junkyard owner, meets and is drawn to a mysterious free spirited girl called Sarah. Brought together by their dark and unpredictable powers (Anthony can turn objects inside out, whilst Sarah, has dangerously flammable blood), they form a kinship that lasts from the moment they meet. However, Anthony and Sarah soon realise that the world they live in is not what it seems, and it will take a more than a childhood promise to keep them together.
I hope you enjoy this small excerpt! Please do comment, criticize and let me know what you think! Any comments would be greatly appreciated. I do hope to develop it further one day into a full fledged novel, an online comic, graphic novel or in other forms.
“Magic People, Voodoo People.”
The first time I saw her she was covered in a yarn sack. I had just finished clearing the driveway when I heard a sound from across the street. It was a strange whistling – not the wind. She was hunched on the battered ground. They were in a small alley beside a dilapidated warehouse. They were stabbing her with safety pins.
At first I don’t know what to do. There are three of them. I recognized their faces: they are all the same. John, David and Ed Crowley. I know because their father works with my dad at the junkyard. They don’t notice me. They just continue to stab her through the sack with silver pins between their fingertips; pretending they’re metal claws. However that didn’t seem to be enough. They didn’t just want to hurt her. They want it to be a show.
“Look look..it’s happening!”
“Step back or she’ll explode!”
I remember just standing there for a while. I must have been twelve. It was a Saturday afternoon. I didn’t have any homework to do. That’s why I was out in the yard; I promised my dad I would clean the driveway after we removed that piece of crap tractor.
A part of me wanted to join in. But there’s a difference. I wasn’t going to. I remember my nails sinking into my palm until it felt like they were going to pass out the other side. I rushed over and immediately stood before them.
Even at twelve, I know I’m far bigger then all three of them. Call it a gift from my dad, but I’ve always been big boned. By the time I’m fourteen, I’m taller and bigger than all the guys in my class. That doesn’t matter though. It won’t help me after school. I’m a junkyard’s son. With a junkyard birthright
“Stop,” I say. I stutter that one word.
I don’t like to talk. It doesn’t suit my nature. But I feel the moment demands it. I don’t like the way she’s squirming on the ground. Like some kind of animal. A dog. She wasn’t even crying. That meant she was used to it.
“What do you want Bell?” Ed spits. They’re all skinny, with pale blue eyes. I know I can take them. My stubby hands ball into fists.
“Leave her… alone.”
The three of them regroup and stand in front of the sack. I see a long strand of blonde hair coming out of the roped end. Thin trials of smoke furl up from the bag.
They look at me like I am some sort of outsider. I’ve seen them in school and I will know them for years to come. But even though they are the only boys in my sectors region, I will never be their friend.
“Junk trash,” one of them spits. I’m not sure which one.
They turn around and walk in the other direction – towards the darkened warehouse. Beyond it, I can see the City skyline – black rectangles against an faded amber sky.
I walk over to the sack and open it. It doesn’t take long. She doesn’t move the whole time. As if she’s playing dead. When I finally pull the sack down over her neck and body, she awakens with a start.
“Get of me!”
She kicks me away weakly. My chest muscles are strong for my age. I back of.
She pulls down the rest of the sack. She’s wearing a long white dress. There are small blood spots all over her – each outlined in a singed black circle. I smell smoke. Some kind of tainted perfume.
She ties her hair into a bun. I watch her. It doesn’t take me long to notice that she has little scars all over her. Some large – like a circle of healed tissue on her cheek. Others are small – little patches of brown on her thin arms and legs. However something stands out from all of that. It was her eyes. Grey orbs that seemed to fit better in the centre of a storm rather than her skull.
“Are you ok?” I finally say when I realise I’ve been staring for too long.
“I’m fine. I don’t need help.”
She doesn’t look at me.
I don’t know what to say. This is the most I’ve said to any girl in school. Outside? I’ve never spoken to a girl outside of school.
I watch her as she pats down her dress and kicks the sack away. When she is ready, she finally looks at me. There’s a glaze clinging to her eyes that I think might be the beginnings of tears. I don’t say anything.
“You’re…the junkyard kid,” she says.
So she knows me? How could she know me?
“Yes,” I say ,“my father runs it. It’s called Metal Works.”
“Everyone knows that,” she says a-matter-of-factly. “It’s the only one in the Under. Commissioned by the City itself.”
She seems to be a little of a know-it-all. Annoying to most I’m sure. For me, it’s a breath of fresh air. There are not many people that know about the workings of the Un or the City.
“Yeah. Are you…all right?”
“It’s nothing,” she says and rubs a bloodied spot on her shoulder. I can smell the smoke – a bitterness to the afternoon air.
“All right then. I guess…I’ll see you in school.”
I walk away. I’m not good with words. I don’t have to be. I turn around and walk back across the street to my unit; a rectangular grey block amongst countless others. A voice call’s out from across the street. It seems to dull everything else out. Even the muffled wind in my ears.
“What happens when you turn fire inside out?”
I turn. I didn’t hear her the first time and look at her strangely. She takes my facial expression as a cue and repeats it. We’re separated – a sandy road with cracks that look like they can part the whole world in two. Her white dress flows around her like she’s wearing a ghostly river.
“Yeah. What happens?”
“Maybe your parents know,” I reply. “Your mother works at the plant right?”
“How do you know that?” her eyebrows furrow.
“I saw her at the plant once. My mother works there too.”
“She’s a chemical analyst. Not a chemist.”
“Well maybe she knows. I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know? You can do it can’t you?”
I probably can – I think. My birthright has strict rules attached to them. She doesn’t know because each family is different. They are laws each family obeys. If the City people found out we were using them for anything other than our profession…
I don’t want to think about it.
“Maybe one day.”
She looks at me with hope in her eyes. I was only twelve, but at that moment, I realised the importance of a promise. They’re not just words. It’s gift to give them hope. I don’t know why she wants to know what the inside of fire looks like. Strange days. Strange people.
“As long as I don’t get burned. I’ll try one day.”
“So you promise to show me?”
“My name’s Sarah,” she says and hops on one foot.
She smiles though – grinning through pale thin lips.I turn around and walk away. I don’t really feel like smiling because, to be honest, I’m not used to it. When I get back to my house I lock the door, activate the electronic catch and go up to my room. There’s a window there and I look out from it across the street.
Sarah is still standing there. She’s picking a flower from a small patch of grass that has risen up from a crack in the road. She cradles it close to her. Like it’s the most important thing in the world. I know a lot of construction trucks go this way on their way to the City limits. It’s a goner if she doesn’t take it. Flowers are hard to come by these days.
I’m glad one is safe with her.
FIVE YEARS LATER
I’m sitting back in my chair watching Mr.Brown write something on the board. I trace a tattoo on my forearm with a pencil. It doesn’t feel painful – rather like I am giving a little life to it. I turn around and see that half the class is sleeping; a class of less than ten.
“The Chemical Plant 45 incident,” Mr.Brown groans.
I don’t look up. I decide to look down at my textbook and continue with the passage. I’m not reading it – just skimming over the pictures.
Mr.Brown turns around and looks at the class. I don’t like the way his mustache seems surgically attached to his face. Like some sort of badly designed mask. He slams his fist into his table – making his pencil tray rattle violently. The class stirs. I don’t look up.
“Now can anyone tell me about what happened? ”
“It wiped out half of our region,” says a small voice from behind me.
It’s Hilary. I know because I always hear her giggling whenever she does her tricks. Those weird things she can do with her hair. Sometimes I ask her to do it for me just to keep me awake in class.
“And why is it significant to our society?”
Hilary clears her throat. “It was a chemical explosion that was caused by a Birthright of an employee. It ignited a whole range of issues and drafted new laws because of it.”
“Finally!” Mr.Brown exclaims. It usually takes much longer to get a response of this quality. “Yes, The City concluded it was caused by a misjudgment in some of our Birthright laws and thus, put measures in place that we have today.”
I look down at the page.
There’s three photos. In one of the photos, there are a group of men dressed in dark uniforms overlooking a part of the city that looks like an atom bomb went of. An arc of destruction – smoldering. Hell. In the others, there are hundreds of people lying dead in the streets. They look like their clothes and skins have been burned of.
The last is a picture of a woman. Long red hair. Dark blue eyes.
I turn the page. I don’t want to read anymore. Not from a textbook. This isn’t learning about history. I’d rather hear it from her.
“At that time ‘Birthrights’ – or as many older sects of society call Voodoo or black magic – was not the social issue it is today,” Mr Brown explained. “In a world where religion and science was left decimated by the Last War, these strange abilities were at first embraced. A gift that families and ailing societies used to make a living, feed their children and create jobs. They were not as fantastical as some story books presented but they were real…and useful. In a post war world, the only logical step forward for our struggling ancestors, was to use them for the betterment of the next generation.”
I look at my arm. My tattoo reads: RED. I trace the pencil around its font – a strange text with sinuous curves outlined in silvery ink.
Mr Brown drones on, “The Plant 45 incident proved, for the first time, that Birthrights could be dangerous to people. That some extremists could use them against us. That while we struggled with famine, a severe lack of resources and death on a daily basis: some individuals still clung to the selfish ideals of our past.”
I turn to my right and look out of the window.
In the distance, I can see the the City; spires of black against a blanket of grey clouds. A dull yellow sun visible but it doesn’t look like it can pierce that place with any form of light. It’s distant from us.
Outside the playground is empty. Nothing but cracked concrete and skeletal trees. Occasionally a metal pole juts out of a turf of grass with the Vertrand Corp logo – a crimson stamp with two snakes rising up from a pointed spear. They are all nearly toppled now and rusty. Officials from the city haven’t been here in a long time.
I turn back around. Mr.Brown is looking straight at me – his fingertips stroking his thick black mustache.
“Isn’t that right Anthony?”
“I said…the effects of the Plant 45 incident changed everything. Isn’t that right?”
My fists clench.
I want to hit him. A pang of pain boils in the centre of my chest. I’m the biggest one in the class. I can’t cry. He shouldn’t be asking me this question in the first place. It makes me sick.
I relax my fists and nod.
“Yes…many people died.”
“I’m looking forward to your essay Mr.Bell. Seeing as school wrestling championships are coming up, I do hope you pass. Or your participation may be a problem.”
“No,” I say. “It won’t be a problem.”
I look back down at my textbook. This time I pretend to read so that Mr.Brown will just leave me alone. Mr Brown turns back to the class. The only one that is awake is Hilary. I know because I can hear her humming a gentle song.
“All right…your essays are due tomorrow on the topic Birthrights: It’s applications and the spiritual revolution. I want them all in before the festival this weekend. Is that clear?”
There’s a groan from the class but it is agreed. No one wants homework when the festivals arrives.
I walk down the corridor and high five a few people. Actually, they high five me. I’m not sure why, but I just smile and listen to them anyway. It’s something I’ve come accustomed to since I joined the team.
“You crushed that City boy Ant!”
“You da man Ant!”
“You’ve got the title man! One more to go!”
When I’m at the end of the corridor I hear the bell ring and know that school is over. I hear a patter of footsteps behind me and turn. It’s Hilary – two ponytails of pitch black hair bobbing behind her.
“Tough class huh?” she smiles.
I know what she’s referring to. I don’t want to broach the subject in the open with everyone watching. I can already see a group of leather clad senior guys watching from the staircase. I don’t know them. I turn to the front entrance.
“Yeah..a little. Thanks for keeping me awake,” I say genuinely.
Hilary smiles and flicks both her pony tails over her shoulder.
“That’s what they are here for haha.”
She laughs a bit too loudly; a tinge of warmth flushing her cheeks. For a moment I think she’s actually rather pretty. She’s small, but she has an air about her. Like she would do anything for you. Anything to protect you. It’s an ancient thing; like what the knights of the round table must have had.
“So…are you going to the festival this weekend? With your dad? Was thinking we could meet up? Go together? I heard there’s gonna be a freestyle wrestling competition too! Folk from the City and the outlining regions.”
“They’ve come to raise money for themselves Hilary,” I say. “Not for us.”
“Well…it’s your thing..so..I thought I’d support you. I got a banner already set up at home. It says YOUR JUNK!” she smiles sheepishly. “It’s a play on…words.”
I smile at her.
I turn around and we walk out of the school grounds and towards the bus transport area. When I get into the bus, Hilary is already talking about her birthright and how she taught her hair strands to do some new things. I’m not really listening. I’m looking out the window.
The bus trudges through the Under, passing numerous toppled signs that were once useful. We come to an intersection; a forked tongue that leads to my region and the City. I can’t help but wonder if it’s always been this way. Separated.
The bus turns right. I see a few stragglers on the streets but don’t pay them any attention as they rush up to the bus. They’re soon lost in clouds of dust. No-one stirs. I turn to Hilary and see she has stopped talking.
After a few stops Hilary gets of and I say goodbye. She doesn’t live far from me and at least I have someone to turn to whenever I’m stuck on mathematics. She’d even ride her bike through half the Under to meet me. She’s done it before. There’s not many people that can navigate the Under through just back alleys and deserted roads. I guess we are a new generation.
“See ya at the festival,” she says and turns to a darkened alley that leads to her region.
I smile and wave goodbye. I know there’s a few people at the back of the bus watching me but I don’t care.
When I reach home, I check to see if I’ve done everything my father has asked of me. There’s the electronic locks that he asked me to recalibrate – done. The reorganization of the files on the new shipment in his filing cabinet – done. And then there’s a little bit of practice before I prepare dinner.
It’s a simple meal; potatoes, cabbage, thin lamb slices and boiled chicken. I got most of them from the market across the Un and don’t need to do much. Just the potatoes and the cabbage; which I know will be my practice for the day.
I pick up the first potato over my pot of boiling water. The cabbage will be later. It’s harder to work on bigger objects. I close my eyes.
That’s what my father always says. That’s it’s a matter of visualization. All Birthrights are. It’s not a mechanical or even a biological thing. It’s instinctive. Innate.
I touch the potato and place it down on the chopping board. In reality I know I can slice it faster. It’s just the challenge. I might as well start small seeing as I haven’t had any luck with bigger objects. I know my dad has always been disappointed in me for that. It’s supposed to be the one thing we’re good at.
The potato rocks from side to side.
I can see the centre it start to contort. The way I’ve always seen my dad do it. But with cars and metal; there’s always a moment when it looks like it’s going to explode. Like its atoms are refusing to undergo the change it’s being forced to perform. As a child it always wowed me. Now, I don’t know how to react. There’s only so many times before the magic just fades away.
The potato stops.
I see the skin start to peel. It looks promising. An outward motion like something is trying to claw its way–
There’s a deafening pop. I fall back — my ears stinging.
When I open my eyes I see the remains of my failure. Potato bits all over me and on the ceiling. I get up and wipe myself of. There’s a mirror over my stove but I don’t want to look in it. I just clean my face and pick up the knife.
My dads sitting at the table praying with his eyes closed. I open my eyes. I look around me and see that he has a hand on top of the table – open. Like he’s waiting for someone to hold it. One chair is pulled back next to him – like he’s waiting for a person to occupy it.
When he opens his eyes we eat.
“Changed the locks.”
“The files? We get the shipment next week.”
I nod and look up. “Yes pa.”
“Good…we lost a few others today. Cut backs.”
He sits back and begins to eat his meal. From my peripherals, his thin glasses reflect the dim fluorescent light above us. I’m not sure if he’s looking at me.
“Mr.Brown sent me a message today.”
This is going to be bad.
I try to look casual. Mr.Brown has always had it in for me. And the fact that I’m not as academically inclined as the others. I make up for it in drive and sport – something my mother has always pushed me to pursue. I don’t know why Mr.Brown doesn’t understand that. That we’re all different.
“What did he want?”
I haven’t even started his essay. I’m glad my father isn’t good reader of body language. He’s more of a direct kind of person. Regional managers have to be.
“Says if you don’t pass his class…he won’t hesitate to take you out of the Inter school Wrestling championships. Says you are good…but you lack discipline.”
I know that isn’t true. Discipline? What does me want me to be – a priest? I just have priorities. Things I have to do that my father understands.
“I miss his classes sometimes. To help Metallic Works. You know that.”
“I know,” my father says and swallows a lamb slice. His knife and fork look like tiny silver toothpicks in his huge hands, “I still don’t want you falling behind.”
“I won’t. I can handle it.”
There’s silence for a while. Behind me, I can hear a siren somewhere in the Un.
My eyes capture the glint of a candle at the far side of the room. At a framed picture. Fresh roses lay in a vase on either side. My father’s eyes meet mine and he immediately turns away. He thinks I didn’t notice. I’m a better reader of body language than he is. That’s my mothers gift.
“Your mother…wouldn’t want that.”
I look into my father’s eyes. Not a sound.
“Maybe if you spend less time over at Moors Lake.”
It was either John, David or Ed. It’s my business where I go. Isn’t it? I’m not hurting anyone. They probably told their father what they saw one time. Stupid. I hope to get drafted against them for a coming match. They all wrestle on the school team – but frankly each only has a third of my skill.
“I don’t spend a lot of time there,” I say. “Just now and again. To clear my thoughts.”
“You won’t be working at a lake.”
Ever since I was able to speak – I knew what I would become. When you are born for something, there’s no reason to consider anything else. It’s the one thing that nearly made me rethink joining the wrestling team. In my seventeen years – it’s the only decision I’ve made for myself. I’m not going anywhere with wrestling but it passes the time, and has at least got me some fame. A few looks of admiration too.
I think of Hilary. And friends – it’s gotten me a few of them too.
My father puts down his fork. He taps one of the potatoes and I watch as it turns magically inside out. Perfectly.
“If you’re going to take over, you had better start getting your priorities straight.”
I can hear the tinge of disappointment in his voice. It kills me. Not even winning a gold medal at last years championship had changed it. I glance at the picture at the far side of the room. A woman with long brown hair and hazel eyes. A wide toothed grin.
“I will. I’ve been practicing.”
“Not enough. By your age I could turn a trailer inside out in ten seconds.”
I feel a burning sensation in the middle of my chest. It’s the same feeling I get when I’m competing. It’s tamable; I’ve managed to quell it. It’s something I only use when I’m performing a take down on my opponent or holding him down for a point. It has no place at a dinner table.
I finish the rest of my meal in silence then ask for permission to leave. My father nods and I go to the kitchen and wash up. After he’s done, he drops his plate of and I wash it.
There’s a uneasy creaking up the stairs as my father walks up to his room. When I come back out, I see that it is already night. Shadows have crept inside. I walk over to the picture and clean it with a tissue from dust. I replace the water in the jugs before going up to my room.
I make some final preparations to my wrestling gear. I check my straps, head gear, tape, my boots, and my body suit with NUMBER 10 on the back. After I lie down on my bed, relaxing my muscles. I’m a big guy and quick; but not invincible. I reach for an album in my drawer.
It’s a dusty thing – leather backed with only a few pages inside. I only keep a few photos in it.
My brown eyes pass over the tattered pages. There’s one with my dad and mum when I was five – at the entrance of the City where I was going to watch my first wrestling match. I can still remember the heat. I was drenched in sweat from head to toe the whole time but I couldn’t stop smiling. A small puppy — a golden retriever — lays in my arms.
A surge of guilt hits me. I shut the album and put it back.
I turn. Outside I see a fiery red moon in an inky black sky. I can see the house across the street, but the windows are blackened out. Boards are planked against the door. It looks like the coldest place in the Un.
I close my eyes and try to get some rest. I check my watch and set the alarm to midnight.
It’s ten o’clock now.
I wipe my eyes. A trickle of sweat runs down the back of my neck. When I reach the intersection, I turn of the track and walk into the grass. Ahead of me I can see the outline of the forest. Something glistens beyond it.
I don’t know why I am out here again. It’s more of a tradition now. I tell myself to be more careful as I approach the forest. Taller reeds brush the back of my legs and they feel like baby spiders. I really shouldn’t have worn shorts. I brush the taller reeds apart and step to the edge of the forest. Rot bombards my nostrils.
A few moments later I’ve made it across the forests clearing and to the edge of the lake. There’s no-one here. But that’s what I thought last time. Luckily it’s midnight now. I don’t think anyone should be out here for anything. I tell myself to keep an eye out.
The moon illuminates the lake: a ghostly veil. The moon is a glowing opal in the night sky. I look down at my hands and notice that I can pretty much read a book in the light. There, ahead of me, is a fallen oak. Its leaves are long dead and there’s a cavity that runs the length of its massive girth. I walk up to it, making sure to keep my footsteps light.
I turn around – startled. For some reason I immediately take a staggered stance; legs square to my shoulders, arms swaggering. I’m not in a wrestling match and I quickly straighten up. I feel a rush of blood to my face.
“Don’t do that. You always do that.” I try not to sound angry.
“Because you’re so awfully funny when you don’t expect things!”
Before I can settle my eyes on her face, Sarah is already prancing to the edge of the oak and hopping on. She swings her legs over the fallen log and turns to look at me.
She smiles – her eyes seemingly blending into the night around her. Even in the dark her hair glistens; the same effect when the sunlight passes through it. I haven’t seen that in a long time though.
“We have to be more careful,” I tell her. “Someone saw me here.”
“By yourself!” she grins. “I’m always long gone by then.”
“Yes I know..but…”
“You know nothing!” she says. “Anyway we changed the time already. It was your idea!”
Yes it was my idea. I didn’t want to meet at sun down. With current things at Metal Works, I knew I wouldn’t have time. It’s just better this way. I decide to change the subject. I don’t come here to talk about things we should have done.
“I didn’t see you at school today.”
I walk over to the oak and rest my back against it. I can feel it creak against my weight but it holds. Sarah continues to sit there, looking out over the lake. I can see an orb of light in the corner of her eyes.
“I was there. Just not around.”
I turn to her and see an unnatural stiffness pass over her. She’s gritting her teeth; her face frozen. I don’t like it. I walk over to her. She turns to me, brushing her hair back.
I hate sounding like such a simpleton. I’m not. I’m just not good with words. Sarah smiles and rests a hand on my shoulder.
“He’s my uncle..he’s all I had after..”
Sarah gets down of the log and walks towards the edge of the lake. In the distance, I can see a metallic sign. I can’t see what’s written on it in the dull light, but I know it says Moors. It takes me a while to realise that she’s barefoot. Her feet muddied.
“Why do you do that?” I ask. “Why don’t you wear something?”
“Why should I? I can wear what I want.”
“But it’s silly. You’ll catch a cold.”
I step over to her but notice I’m sinking more than her. I decide to wait behind her.
“I’m covered up twenty three hours a day. Can’t I at least have one hour for myself.”
My eyes pass across the backs of her slender legs. At scars and blotches. When she turns around I peer at her face – at a what looks like a dull circle on her right cheek.
“Just…be careful. Your uncle…he doesn’t…care about you. Only what you’ve been given.”
“Which isn’t much,” she says. “Besides my unit, there isn’t anything else anymore.”
“He’s going to sell it isn’t he?”
“Probably. I’ll move again. Or he’ll kick me out.”
“You can come to my unit.”
“You and I both know that’s not possible.”
She walks back to the oak. She’s right. Even if she was made homeless by her penny pinching uncle, she would be better out on the streets. At least then she could disappear. What’s worst than having seething eyes looking at you everyday?
We look up at the moon. We do it at least once when we’re together – I’ve noticed. I have no idea why. Sometimes we do it separately, and sometimes at the same time. Tonight, it’s at the same time. It makes me feel better; like nothing can get to us here.
“I heard you’re doing well at the whole wrestling thang…on your way to the finals.”
“Yeah…something like that.”
“Saw Hilary putting up posters in the girl’s toilet.”
I smile. It’s a very Hilary thing to do. A part of me wants to thank her, while another feels overwhelmingly embarrassed. I turn to Sarah and nod.
“She’s a good friend.”
Sarah gets down of the log and ties her hair back. I recall the first time I met her – a white dress covered in blood patches. Now she’s wearing dull blue jeans and a tank top. She’s grown but still slender. You wouldn’t know it by the way she dresses in school.
“Let’s see some moves then?”
“Some moves!” she smiles cheekily. She takes an amateurish fighting stance and starts to hop on both feet. Like she’s some kind of boxer. We talk about wrestling sometimes, but it’s not a very girl thing. I don’t know if it’s even a very me thing.
“You call that a stance?” I say and a chuckle rises in my throat. “Here.”
I walk over to a less wet patch of grass. For a moment I can’t believe we’re doing this. Wrestling at midnight in front of a lake. Sounds like the title of a poem I haven’t even written yet. If I could write poems that is.
“You sure you-”
“Get on with it fatty!”
I smile and take a simple stance – feet perpendicular to my shoulders. I twiddle my fingers and she’s doesn’t look impressed.
“This is called a square stance.”
“I don’t want to know about stances!” she says. “I want to know how to take someone down!” She does a phoney take down action which looks more like she’s trying throw a cake on the floor.
“Duh! Isn’t that how you win a match? A pin of..what..one to two seconds? Why wrestle for three rounds when you can take him out in one quick move?”
So she has been listening. I can never tell sometimes. One moment she’ll be smiling and mocking me – the next she’s silent and acting like the whole world rests on her shoulders. I think of one I know – the one I’m known for. The half nelson.
“Well this one is usually done on the mat but I guess..we’ll do it standing up.”
I walk up to her and slowly edge around her. Her eyes look like they can bore a hole in my skull. I place my forearms under armpits and lift her arms up – clamping them until they go limp. I don’t put much pressure but the effect is there. Her body under my command.
“This is a half nelson. Then I just use my legs…and push my body on top of my opponent for a pin.”
She turns around in an instant and I relinquish my grip. She kicks me in the shin and I feel her toes squash together. She yelps as she falls back – hands reaching out for stability.
I grab one of her thin arms and yank her back up. There’s mud on her shins but she’s fine. It must have hurt ; I’m strong and I’ve just pulled her with all my strength. She doesn’t make a sound though. She doesn’t even rub the rush of blood to her skin.
There’s a sound; a slight whistling in the night air.
“Are you ok?”
She reaches down and rubs her toe. I smell something pungent rise up; something that tickles my nose and makes me want to sneeze. When I look down I see her big toe; the nail cracked. Beneath it, trails of smoke rise up from a reddish blotch.
“I’ll be fine.”
She rams her foot into the ground. Fallen leaves and soil immerse her toes. When she takes it out, she acts like nothing has happened. I’m not sure if anything has.
“Don’t do that, those…things.”
“Unexpected things? I can’t help it..it’s in my blood isn’t it?”
Her voice sounds strained. I can hear her heavy breathing in the silent air. She turns around and I look towards the back of her head. She pulls her hair down – long strands of blonde.
“I’m going to the festival with Hilary.”
“That’s awesome,” she says through gritted teeth. “Hope you have a whole lot of fun denouncing my mother as a terrorist.”
I don’t like it when she talks this way. It happens sometimes. One moment she’s fun and smiling and surprising me. The next – she’s switches. It’s so sudden. I look up at the moon and wonder if that’s what a werewolf must feel like.
“It’s a fund raiser…for the victims.”
“It’s a witch hunt in my families name.” She turns around. She’s breathing deeply – arms frozen by her side.
“I don’t believe it. I never have.”
“You say that but you’ve never told anyone. You’ve never written it down in one of Brown’s insipid essays. Your father would soon enough denounce you as his son than see it any other way.”
A mixture of pity and anger seeps into my chest. I’m sweating. A droplet running down the back of my spine. I feel like I need to leave; come back when she’s calmed down. But I can’t. She needs me here. That’s why we meet in the first place.
It’s an understatement. My father isn’t angry – he brims with rage and self pity every day. He wasn’t like this before. When I was a child, he told me that while our birthrights define certain things, it isn’t the only path we can choose to lead. There are others. Better paths out there. Now his are replaced with sorrow and guilt. For allowing my mother to be just another victim of an ‘unregistered accident’.
“Your father and everyone else in this god forsaken place, is a walking corpse just waiting to be put out of their misery by Vertrand Corp. Why do you think they didn’t take me away? It’s to make me an example. To show you how daughter’s of terrorists are treated!”
“Don’t say that.”
“Why not? Everyone thinks it and reads it. My beloved mother…the woman responsible for the darkest day in our regions history!”
She walks up to me. She’s not intimidated in the least by my size; I’m at least a head and half taller. It’s something I’ve always respected about her. She’s not afraid. Even with blood that erupts into flames at the slightest contact with the outside world.
“Well I’m not going to let them get away with it.”
“What?” my eyebrow’s furrow.
She doesn’t speak for a while – her eye’s locked onto mine.
“He’ll be there. Theodore Vertrand.”
It’s never been this bad. Usually we sit and talk about other things. Not the past. Not at the things that have scarred both me and her. Not at the things that have scarred the whole region. But there’s something new burning in her eyes. It’s not fearlessness or stupidity. It’s truth.
She turns away and runs of into the forest. I try to stop her, but my feet sink into the mud and it takes me a few moments to rip it free. By the time I look up I can only see the last fleeting moments of her form in the shadows.
Theodore Vertrand? Why would she seek the man giving our families lively hoods in the first place? My mother worked for Vertrand Corp. We all do.
I look up at the moon before heading back home. Questions accompany my cold walk. I want to call her, but know that Bill won’t allow it. I’ll have to find another way.