Ch.38- 46, epilogue
Chapter 1: Uncovered
A breeze blew past me while I ran. My feet ached and my throat felt thick. I would need to rest soon. But I had to run. I sighed. That’s all I was good for these days…running…running away from monsters who tried to suck out my mind…trying to run from friends who had theirs sucked out before me…It was a hard life. But I’d risk it for everyone. I looked behind me and saw and heard nothing. Slowly, I leaned against a tree. I was very exhausted these days. I wanted to cry. To push the world away, to fall on my knees and cry. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t cry. All my tears had dried up. I sighed and laid down. Exhaustion was usual. I was beyond hoping this was all a dream and I would wake to hear my mother humming over breakfast and my brother with his Ipod speakers too loud. But I didn’t. I never did. Never. I remembered the day they came for us…the four parasites. The creatures who had taken my mother, father, brother, and now Uncle Lebo away from me. Was I not allowed to be happy for once? Did my life have to be such a constant misery? I knew the answer: yes. I felt as if I’d been punched. I had two choices: turn myself in and lose my mind or stay on the run for the rest of my life, never to see happiness in the face. I let myself wander back to that last day… I had been thirteen years old. I was tall for my age, I looked fifteen at most. I was alone since my parents had taken Miquiel to his basketball game. I was sick of basketball. This whole house lived on it. Well, I didn’t I wouldn’t. I‘d been reading a book when the bell sounded. I didn’t move toward the door; I wasn’t to open the door to anyone except my parents, but they’d have the key and let themselves in. The bell kept ringing for a full fifteen minutes; it was starting to worry me. Then, I couldn’t hear it anymore. If they wanted to see my family, they’d have to come back another time. I gasped. I should’ve known it was the disgusting parasites. No one else would ring for so long. But I was young, innocent, and unaware of the war until I had been pulled into it. I’d awoken that night to the sound of our doorbell. It was 3:12 in the morning. Who would come at this hour? I pushed myself out of bed, slipped my thin pink-with-stars robe on and slipped outside into the hall. My dad was walking down the stairs. Mom looked at me and cautioned me with her eyes. She looked worried. I wonder why? Nothing ever worried mom. Worried…everything is so past tense even though her body lives on. I walked quietly down the stairs. How did Miquiel not get up at the noise of the bell? He must be a heavy sleeper. My father hesitated at the door. Through the glass I could see blurred shapes. Three, maybe four people were standing outside. It would be rude not to let them in. Or so I thought. If I had known who they were, what they were, I would’ve secured the house until not even a fly could enter. Too late now; I was too innocent to understand back then. My dad finally took a deep breath and opened the door…and gasped. All color had drained from his face. Every handsome line on his face had gone from worried to downright horror. He stood frozen for the longest time. Whoever was there got impatient. They crossed the threshold and into the front room. My mom screamed when she saw them, She sunk to her knees and started praying. I stared at her. Mother never did this. Never. Not when Maquiel almost died a few years ago when cliff climbing or when the oven exploded, ruining her kitchen. So what made her face paler than dad’s. I looked back at the people who had caused this. There were four figures-I had been right- in the room, three men and a woman. The first man was tall and lean with sandy hair that was shaved to a buzz. He didn’t make a sound. He just stood there waiting for orders. So, he definitely didn’t lead this group. The second man was short and stocky; I could see his muscles banding on his arms under the shirt. He had blond hair and a beard. He would have been handsome except for the nasty scowl on his face. I wished I’d scowled back. I wanted to let him know that I knew the truth and I would hunt him down. But I didn’t. I didn’t know than of course. I looked then at the third man. Or should I say boy. He looked like he could be sixteen. He was tall too, but had more muscle than the first one. His brownish-red hair was brilliant. Just then he turned and looked at me. I felt his gaze on me and I flushed-how embarrassing. I turned away but he still looked at me. I wondered how he saw me. Did he see me as a little girl with frizzy hair, a stretched out body, long arms and legs, and way too big eyes. Or did he see me as a strong young lady with tastefully long limbs, beautiful brown eyes, and luscious black curly hair. Shut up, I screamed at myself. He’s sixteen. Get a hold of yourself! Before I could think any further, my big blundering eighteen year old brother basically jumped down the stairs. “Did someone scream,” he asked groggily. I growled and he shook himself awake. I knew what he saw. Four strangers dressed in black with sunglasses on in the middle of the night. “What the…” Before he could go further he was pinned by the stocky man. There was shock on his face but the man held his mouth. At almost the same time, I felt myself slammed into the wall. Someone caught my hands with an iron grasp. I tried to pull myself free but to no avail. I looked around me. My mother was on the floor; the only woman agent holding her. The woman was short, with pixie-like black hair. She had a pale face and a pointy nose. My mom didn’t struggle; I couldn’t believe it. My mom always put up a fight. The lanky man held my dad against a corner and sneered. My dad looked panicked but calmed when he saw my space. He spoke, his voice even. “Take me and my wife if you want, but let our children be.” His voice wavered at children. You’ve already taken them once before. The woman looked up. “Sorry,” she said, sounding not sorry at all. “We have rules. Either these babies get inserted or they can walk the ship walk.” What was a ship walk? And what the hell was an insertion? I grimaced. If I had known what an insertion was then, I would’ve screamed till they killed me. But of course, the word “insertion” had never been in my vocabulary at that time. As I struggled internally, I didn’t notice my capture pull me around to study me. I didn’t even know who it was; I had my eyes closed. I opened them slowly and looked into black. Of course, his sunglasses were still on. He analyzed my face. Then, he pushed me away and analyzed my body. “Pretty,” he finally said between his teeth. His voice was wonderful, a dream. It swerved in just the right places. I couldn’t place the pitch. Time to take music lessons. “Do you want her?” asked the woman. “We can put any soul you want in her body. She’ll be yours until you both die.” She seemed impatient to me. I was still trying to understand. They were going to put a soul in me? What was this soul? Weren’t all humans born with one? What did she mean ‘until I die’? Was she going to kill me? “I don’t know.” At the sound of his voice I stopped and listened. “She’s a pretty thing” – I flushed with pride- “but she’s…different. It’s like she’s in her own frequency. She didn’t freak out like her parents. I wonder why?” He looked me over, a slight frown on his face. “We have to go; knock ‘em out.” The lean man said. He leaned over dad but before I could see anymore, something hit me in the back of the head and everything went black. I was pulled out by my despair. Everything had been smooth until that day. That day had been my last normal one. What got me was how my parents hid me, Miquiel, and themselves for forty years (only eighteen in Miquiel’s case). They had been able to stay in one place for so long. Faking helped. Most of the bodies used by parasites had scars at the neck where the “soul” had been inserted. I had used a knife to create my own and some smooth to make it fade a little. My parents had done the same. The only problem was the eyes. The eyes of bodies with parasites reflected more than human ones. If my eye hit the light and someone was looking, I’d be dead. That’s why I went raiding on cloudy days where there would be no sun, yet there wouldn’t be any light in the stores. The closest I’d come to failing was this morning. Suddenly, I heard a rustling. I was up on my feet in a second. I slung my light pack onto my shoulder and waited. Had this been my imagination or was someone really sneaking up on me? I thought about how good it was that I could hear the motion. It wasn’t luck that I still survived in this world. It was me. I had been born with an athlete’s body, not stolen like the parasites. I had very good peripheral vision and pretty good hand-eye-coordination. Had I been born back in the normal time, I would be very popular; athletic, cute, and smart (I have an IQ of 173…that’s high), I would have had all the attention. But here, I was an outcast. I didn’t want attention. Not that kind. I snaked toward the cluster of trees to my left. I would be protected most there while still being able to view my attacker. I walked slowly. There was no sound as I walked and I heard no other sounds in the forest. Suddenly, I heard a snap. I didn’t even think about it. I just started running. No one could beat me when I ran. I was all for speed. My record was a mile in 5 minutes 38 seconds. Very good timing, if I do say so my self. I didn’t even look back to see who it was as I snaked the jungle floor. I could feel some of the sticks under my feet as I ran. Ugh! I definitely needed new shoes, but instead, my chasers were planning on giving me a new life. Finally, when I thought I was far enough ahead, I looked back. There were five of them. Three males and two females by the looks of it. The Two of the seekers looked familiar, but they were too far away for me to put the stamp on it. Instead of speeding up, I stayed my speed. Who were these seekers? I looked again and gasped. They were much closer now. I could make out the man in the lead. His face brought back memories, none of them good. Cold grey eyes…reflecting irises… cruel smiles…tears…I knew who it was. I’d met him a little more than three years ago at my house. He had said that I was pretty. It was that teenager who had captured me. Fury coursed through me. How dare he come after me? I wanted to go back, but my instinct of self preservation was stronger. I sped up. Suddenly, I heard water. And lots of it. Oh No! I’d totally forgotten that the forest lead to the waterfalls. They were falling behind again, but if I kept going, I’d fall over the edge. That was better than having a parasite in you, I told myself. The forest thinned out, and to my great displeasure, I saw the edge. If I jumped it, I would have a 5% chance of survival. Today was better though; the weather was good; the current wasn’t as strong. Maybe there was a 10% chance this time. I leaped onto the rock farthest away from the forest. It was also the most out above the sea. A few steps back, and it would be a straight drop to the water. In about five seconds, the seekers came into view…well the first one did. I gave him a cold glare when he stopped and looked up. The rest arrived. Now I recognized the small woman, she had taken my mother to be inserted. Hate filled me and I hissed. She raised her eyebrows mockingly. She thought my self preservation would get the better of me and I would come. She didn’t know that I lost too much to care any more. Uncle Ledo had been the last straw. I crouched down and growled. The three newcomers entered the clearing and formed a semi-circle around my rock. I didn’t move; I squared me jaw. People were scared when they saw me do that because I looked downright dangerous. That was the plan. The guy who first captured me came forward and knelt at their end of the rock. “My name is Jake and I want to ask you questions, that’s all.” I wondered how I looked to him after three years in the wild. I was taller, a full 5’8”, and I was slimmer too; all that running and rations made me strong and muscular. I definitely had more muscles than the average sixteen year old. I still had longer legs than torso though. I was proud of the fact that I was faster than him. But He saw other things to. My skin was grimy with dirt, I was really thin, and everything I was wearing was torn. My eyes were the only thing that was the same, a deep brown color in patterns that seemed to reach into my entire being. Yet, these days I had a cold glare in my eye. I growled again and shook my head. I wouldn’t be used. He looked up at me with a look I didn’t recognize. “Nothing too personal, don’t worry. You look horrible. How did you survive here like this so long?” I stared at him. I hadn’t talked to anyone all day, so talking felt weird. “I don’t like parasites. I wouldn’t tell you even if you killed me.” He stared at me blankly. “Of course you wouldn’t tell us if we were going to kill you,” he said. He just didn’t get it. I wanted to die more than I wanted to be wiped out from my body. I knew mine would be wanted. All those years of hard work would make a parasite feel good. “Pschh” I said in a blow off manner. “You parasites don’t get it, do you? I rather die than turn into one of you. You disgust the whole human race.” I looked at him in awe. I hadn’t meant to say do much in such a hateful voice. They all looked at me as if I were crazy. “Humans already have short life spans. Why make them any shorter?” He was surprised. How could he be? Parasites. They really were pathetic. Then, I saw wordless communication pass between them and the moved in. “We don’t want to hurt you,” The woman said. “Your body is exactly what we need. Thin, strong, tall, and beautiful. You will make a wonderful host. I looked at her in disgust. I saw that Jake had a pained expression on his face. What’s his problem? They were closing in faster. They could almost touch me. I looked behind me at the water churning below. I would risk it, I trold myself. I prepared myself. Jake saw what I was going to do a second before I did. I took a deep breath and walked a few steps back. Right over the edge of the waterfall. I hear Jake scream, “NO!” And I saw him try to catch me. Too late, I thought smugly. But then, Jake slipped and he was falling too, beside me. Oh boy. Hopefully I wouldn’t have to deal with him. I loved The falling feeling. It felt like I was flying. I closed my eyes and stretched out my habds. If I was dying, might as well enjoy it. Then, all too soon, something connected with the back of my head and the world explodes before me. So this was how it felt to die. I liked it. But it hurts. My head. Soon, I feel myself slipping…no place to hold on to…black.
Chapter 2: Confused
I hurt. My whole body burned. Especially my head. I couldn’t ell where I was, but it felt nice. My back was cool, but the front of my body was hot. I was confused. Wasn’t death equal to all parts. Then, my memory came flooding back to me; running…resting…chase…stuck… jumping. I bolted up almost immediately. I was on a beach. There was a burning smell but no one in sight. The air was slightly breezy and it felt good on my shoulders. It absorbed the pain a bit. My legs and arms looked unarmed. I touched the back of my head. There was a bandage on it. Someone was here. I jumped to my feet and looked around carefully. I saw smoke from the trees. I followed silently, hoping it wasn’t fire. What I saw startled me. There was a clearing with fire in the middle. Of to the side, a make-shift tent lay open. It was empty. My pack lay on the ground, closed. Whose sight was this? Then I heard a rustling sound. I turned in time to see a man come into view. I didn’t even need to know who it was before I saw the reflective flash in his eyes from the sun. Jake. I gasped and turned, determined to make a run for it. I ached everywhere, but I might still be able to. “Wait!” He’d seen me. Damn it. Everything just had to get harder. He set down his load, which happened to be branches, and turned to me. “I just want to talk. You should eat something, and I’ll change your bandages again.” I stared at him. He’d bandaged my head. I saw the tear in his shirt and the place where some cloth was missing. I was thoroughly disgusted. I started ripping the bandage off of my head. “Don’t,” he said, coming to my sighed. “You’re hurt and it’ll get worse.” “Why do I care? Your seekers are probably going to patch me right up when your turn me in.” I tried to take the bandage off, but his hand was pretty strong. “I’m not turning you in.” I stared at him blankly. Was this a joke because it sure as hell wasn’t funny. “Of course your not. You just patched me up because of the goodness in your heart,” I said sarcastically. “Actually, I did just heal you up because of the goodness of my heart. Now why don’t you eat something? You must be hungry as hell.” He took out some bread, corn-on-the-cobs, and two bottles of water. I was suspicious. The food and water could be poisoned. “I didn’t know parasites cussed; I always thought you were too polite for that, I said scathingly. Jake looked amused. I turned away. I would refuse to eat anything that he had touched. “Aren’t you hungry?” “No.” But my traitor stomach growled just then. He smiled widely and broke the bread in half. He handed me half. I still refused to take the food. He seemed nice, but wasn’t manipulation how the souls got into power in the first place? “I haven’t poisoned it, you know,” he said politely. He left the food at my side and went back to sit in the tent. I looked at his face and then at the food. He had an amused look on his face, yet it didn’t seem scheming. I sighed and took the corn. I bit into it. Damn! It was delicious. I basically ate the whole thing in ten bites. He started laughing. “Slow down there. You’re going to get stomach pains at this rate.” Well, I was hungry. Jake got up, then. I froze. Was he planning something? When, he touched my head, I jerked. He froze too. “I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to fix your bandages.” I still didn’t move. My head started to spin, and I realized I wasn’t breathing. I took in a breath and prepared to scream. But I didn’t need to. He sighed and sat back down. I relaxed a little. To my surprise, Jake started ripping the hem of his shirt. He looked up and smiled at my surprise. Without a word he handed it to me. “Take the old bandage off your head and put this one on.” I knew he wasn’t going to help me. Not after my reaction last time. I sighed and fixed the bandages. After I finished eating, I decided to bathe. I was a mess. I looked at my clothes. My supposed-to-be-adorable dark wash jeans were more hole than jean, my green long-sleeved top with tight material over my chest was way too worn and thin for my liking, and my sneakers looked like they would drop off in any moment. But I didn’t have anything else to wear at the moment. I sighed. Jake was still watching me. He saw me analyze my clothes and grimaced. “I don’t have clothes in your size but I have extras,” he offered. I knew I didn’t have a choice so I accepted. He handed me an overlarge red T-shirt and a pair of yellow Capri-sweats. I sighed. These clothes would definitely make me stand out in the forest. I didn’t have much of a choice though. I went to the river and stripped. I made sure he wasn’t watching. The water looked cold, so I closed my eyes and jumped. Dang! It was freezing. It was like a thousand knives stabbing into my back, stomach, face, and limbs. I felt like screaming, but there really was no point. I slowly rose to the surface and exhaled. Now, to wash myself without soap. Uncle Ledo had always gotten soap on the raids, but I didn’t have any. The whole point of the raid this morning was to get soap and hygiene materials. So much for that. I tried to get rid of the dirt as best as I could. When I was done, I climbed out and used my worn shirt as a towel. Sigh. I put the colorful outfit he gave me, on, and went back to the campsite. Jake looked up when he heard me. It took him a while to hear me. I totally forgot that my hearing was way better. He was lying on a mat and reading a book. I couldn’t tell which one it was. Would I know of it, or was it a parasite’s make? I sat myself on the opposite side of the clearing and looked at the ground. I heard a shift and my head bolted up. He had moved infinitesimally and I could see the book’s title: Nightmare and Death: The Horror Within. I gasped. That had been my favorite book as a child. To my sadness, the author had been inserted and now wrote non-violent books about the See Weeds and The Origin and whatnot. He looked up and followed my eyes to the book. “Have you read it,” he asked. Of course I’ve read it. It was my favorite book as a child though I haven’t read it in three years. I had to leave it behind after…after…” I didn’t continue. He should understand. He did. He looked away. I feared I said too much anyway. “I’m sorry,” he said. He really did look sorry. “Anyway, what was your favorite part? Mine was when I found out that Death gave Nightmare those secret pills that made her die.” I smiled. “I loved it when they said Death was actually sixteen year old girl with black hair, coal eyes, tall frame, and a pale face who could kill people in the blink of an eye if they had no mystic powers. He shook his head. “I prefer Nightmare. She had to face so much horror from Death; it’s cruel.” “Well, she is Nightmare,” I countered. “Besides, her being able to transform into scary things just creeps me out, and I would prefer to die instantly than have Nightmare torture you.” Eron looked at me silently. Then, I understood what he must’ve heard in my words on Nightmare Es Devil, the blond haired, red eyed, sharp-toothed, sixteen year old who is always half asleep. Her being able to transform into scary things. Ugh, I groaned. He thought I was thinking about the disgusting parasites entering someone’s body. It was creepy though. Nightmare and Death. It was a perfect description of what the parasites did. First, they’d torture you by inserting their parents and letting them come after you. Then, they’d kill you. Well not kill you, but erase you. Same thing in my opinion. Nightmare was horrible, but Death was gentle; merciful, even though she threatened to kill a lot. Everyone thought of death as being violent, but really, it was just a permanent easer of pain. I wondered why I hadn’t killed myself already. The Resistance. They could do with my knowledge. “I thought the parasites didn’t read violent books,” said. “This is the only one left in existence,” he answered. “And we’re not parasites; we’re souls.” I snorted. “Oh yes, how could I have so rude to a soul?” We sat in silence for a while. I sighed and stood up. “I’m sorry, but I have to go.” I got up. He raised an eyebrow. “You humans are rude,” he commented. I whirled around and growled. “You think we’d be rude if we were free?” “Well, I’m just saying that I gave you food, clothes and bandages. I didn’t get a thank you- “Thank you” -and you didn’t even invite me along. I’m disappointed.” I stared at him. He couldn’t come. He might’ve been nice. But he was still a seeker. The Resistance would squash him if he came within ten miles of their home. Home. The word sounded so good. I had to leave now. And besides, he’s a seeker. He could give everything away. “You can’t come. Thanks, but I’m on a tight schedule. He tightened his eyes. “Oh I’m coming. You owe me.” “I owe you nothing. You turned me in, remember. This was the least you could do, so get over it.” I turned around, picked up my pack and started walking toward the forest. Jake grabbed my arm. I tried to free myself, but he had a hard grip. And my arm was narrow enough that he could get his hands completely around.. “I can still call the seekers. It’s the least you could do for me,” he countered. I narrowed my eyes. He looked uncomfortable. Had he just threatened me? No one threatened me and EVER looked the same again. “How dare you,” I asked, slow and dangerous, “threaten me. Leave. Me. Alone.” He let me go. Instead, he asked, “when you need food, you won’t be able to walk in. They’re more careful there since the disappearances in the south.” I stared…he had me there. What disappearances? Had the Resistance been experimenting on taking the souls out? Probably. “OK, fine,” I said. “But you’re to leave after a while. My destination is a secret. He grinned. “You’re going to the Resistance, aren’t you? Can I come? I’m sick of being a seeker.” I stared. He was sick of being a seeker. Lies, I told myself. He wouldn’t follow me after Phoenix. “You can come with me until I hit Phoenix. They’d chop our heads off if you showed up.” He looked away. “Deal,” he finally said. He started packing up the camp. I was so impatient that I got down and helped. Wow. That’s a first. When we were done, I started walking. I couldn’t take it any longer. Jake looked like he was going to protest, but he didn’t. Good. I didn’t feel like arguing. We climbed to the top of the nearest hill and looked down. It was so beautiful. And I would cross the vast plains and mountains in a week. That was my goal. The thought of home couldn’t have sounded sweeter.
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