Saturday, October 17, 2009

Chapter 6 Unexpected

Edy - 16
Michael - 14

“Michael, I don‘t want to go.”

The two of us had hidden in a warehouse across the street from a small but powerful group that had taken control of their own territory which happened to include a large farming village. We’d spent a day watching them before Michael decided to make a move.

“I can’t leave you here alone.” He looked at me for a moment with no readable expression on his face before he took my hand. “Besides, you’ve got to get us inside.”

Michael didn’t know how to be a normal kid our age. As soon as he got near well practiced warriors like the group we were about to face, they picked up on the subconscious clues from their lifetime of dealing with the unimaginable. They always knew he was dangerous.

I came along because we had no home. We were nomads then with no place I could safely stay while he did what he said he had to do. There was also the additional realization for me at some point that if I came along there would be less deaths that way. I could distract them, make them easier for him to manipulate so that he only had to hurt one person as opposed to having to harm them all.

“I won’t let them touch you.”

We stood before the run down building with a small group of dangerous looking tribe members hanging around out front with Michael’s hand innocently in mine.

Now that I look back on it, the group we walked to should have been aware that we were suspicious. Even young kids would know better than to walk right into the hands of vicious and cruel murderers. Michael must have been fogging their brains.

“Lookit this! Doesn’t she look sweet?” The one in the lead stood too close to me and I leaned back fearfully even as Michael held my hand tightly. “Are you lost little girl?” I could smell his noxious breath and it made my already queasy stomach churn. One of his hands reached out as if to grab my face, but he stopped short of actually touching me. “Let’s take her to see the boss. She’s about the right age for him.”

Inside one of the rooms sat the one in charge. His eyes raked over me greedily until Michael stepped in front. From my point of view, I couldn’t see his face, but I could almost imagine solely based off the face of the leader.

The leader hopped up from his seat on the couch as his instincts kicked in. “Where did that kid come from? Anyone check him?” Maybe it was Michael pressing on their minds, infusing the room with his presence. I could only imagine what it would be like. My mind was untouched so I could see their panic growing with each breath like quicksand sucking the ground from beneath them.

A familiar tingle in the back of my skull made my stomach tighten until it was a small hard ball.

Michael was going to do something bad. “Edith, close your eyes.” His young voice was dark and cold. It drew a reaction from the leader who cursed before pulling out his knife a second before my hands covered my eyes and I pressed into Michael‘s back.

Back then the distance between us wasn't as wide. It was an easy thing to touch him then, pressing my face into his shoulder while focusing on the thin ribs of the old shirt he wore so that I could ignore the sounds of ripping clothing, the gasps of horror, and the scent of blood.

“Do the rest of you want to join him?”

I could hear them all agree that no, they really didn’t.

“There is a man waiting for you outside.”

There was the sound of scuffling as they fought to get away.

We teleported to the spot where the Ultimate Soldier was waiting for us. “You can open your eyes now, Edith.” He didn’t have to tell me. As soon as I smelled the fresh air, I had taken in a large breath which didn’t help my stomach like I had thought it would.

I wasn’t the only one who’d become sick. The supposedly hardened fighters all looked as queasy as I did. A few were even throwing up.

The Ultimate Soldier looked around and laughed. “You’ve done it again. We’ll only keep about half of them.”

Behind him stood the Old Man. He looked concerned to see me there. “You’re still alive,” he said without hiding his own shock.

Michael glanced at him with a contempt he seemed to hold for everyone. “What is it to you?”

“She’s human, dammit.” His voice rough and sharp pointed right at Michael. “You’ll damage her if you keep using her like this.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the Ultimate Soldier putting a hand on the old man to pull him back. But my focus was on Michael. Though I felt no tingle, I still worried what he might do. His power could work so quickly; it cut through the air with the speed of thought.

My hand darted to him, grabbing his arm so that his eyes fell on me, darkened by the absence of the light which was falling behind us.

I remember Soldier’s voice softly directed at the Old Man. “Stay out of it. He can use her the way he wants.”

The Old Man threw his hat on the ground and walked away.

That night we slept in one of the rooms of their newly acquired territory. I curled up as I usually did, too uncomfortable to even sleep under the covers.

“Edith, why didn’t you say something before? About what the old man said.”

“I dunno.” My voice sounded so small and pitiful with one ear pressed to the pillow. It was hard to get him to understand what it was like for me. Sometimes it was as if I were traveling by myself with horrible things happening in front of me. He hadn't touched my mind since before That Night. The closeness of our minds when we were little was only a thing of the past, and the words were so hard to say.

Michael sat quietly in thought until I eventually fell asleep on the covers beside him.

It was soon after that he brought me to the house.

It was an abandoned house he had found through word of mouth that hadn't been raided. It still had all of its furniture and a large amount of books.

He said it would be a safe place where I could stay while he was out. He had done something to it so that no one could get in without his inviting them.

With nothing much else to do besides read, I started taking care of the house, growing the garden, and cooking while he went out to continue doing what he needed to do.

Next Chapter -->


  1. Ooooh ... this was a great insight to their past. Michael cared about Edith once otherwise he wouldn't have protected her as he did and she was able to bear physical contact with him. It makes how they are now all that much more tragic.

    I was really intrigued by what the old man said to him about damaging her. Speculating that maybe Michael draws something from Edith when he uses his powers. Hmmm....

    I love the way this story unfolds and each chapter has that sense the world is both alien and familiar to us.

  2. Wonderful update! It does explain some things. I like the progression we are seeing in their relationship, and how it changed. I am still intrigued by why Michael keeps Edith around and safe--I know he cared for her when she was a child, but now it is hard to tell. You hinted that the answer was in a previous chapter--maybe because she was the only one who answered him when he was scared and alone? In that way, she isn't like everyone else he's come into contact with. This is so good!

  3. I love waking up to your comments! You guy always have such interesting thoughts!

    Carnaxa, very interesting speculation. I will say that the old man was just concerned about Edy being there. But still, your speculation is welcome. You're just looking at the wrong clue.

    Rachel, I love that you keep asking why. It's a very good question. It's kind of funny. The last chapter is kicking my butt because as a character, Michael is rather uncooperative. "I wouldn't say that," he keeps saying. "Then how are people supposed to know?" I ask. Teenagers! So I'm glad you're getting it-- right on! He's a bit self centered, so of course it isn't just that Edy is a good and kind person, it's that she was good and kind to him for no reason other than to be good and kind.

  4. This chapter and the comments have got me thinking about all sorts of things but mostly I'm wondering how Michael became what he is.

    He keeps Edy around because she's useful to him - she was good and kind to him, as you say - but does he feel any affection for her at all, or is he even capable of that? Was he ever? Michael was definitely disturbing as a kid but not quite in the same way - it's increased over the years, it seems.

    Also, this "It was hard to get him to understand what it was like for me."

    Michael hasn't got into Edy's mind for a long while but could he still? Is he making a conscious choice not to or has he just not seen the need? I don't know if I could imagine the latter, because it seems like the skill would be pretty useful for someone like Michael.

  5. Oooh Carla! These are actually questions I was constantly thinking about while working on the story. I swear I filled up one Mead journal for this short story.

    Somehow, I had a feeling you'd be the one to ask that last question!

  6. Well, that's good because if you've been thinking about this stuff too, it means I'm more likely to get answers one day down the line!

    And this mind control/mind reading stuff tends to grab me when I come across it in other fiction, so I've latched onto the same concept in your story too, I guess!

  7. I agree, it's heartbreaking to see how close they used to be compared to how they are now.

    This was a great chapter, so many questions answered, just when I wanted them answered! You have a great intuition for knowing what your readers need to know and when!

    I'm glad to see you're considering Carla's question, because I was wondering that too :)

  8. Thank you very much, Laura. I'm glad it's all making sense without being frustrating.

    I am considering the question from every angle. It feels like there's plenty of ways this story could go still but there's only one right way.

  9. Excellent insight into their relationship, he still seems protective, in his own way. And can I say, Michael is scary. "Edith, close your eyes."
    He wants to protect her from the horror, yet he exposes her to it in the first place, interesting.
    And the touch of her hand on his arm, perhaps calms his anger.
    Great update!

  10. You know, I was so sure that more people would be upset about his exposing her to this in the first place. I love getting these comments, because what I focus on and what others focus on can be so different!

    Drew, you and I seem to focus on the same details. That sounds bad since I'm the author and I'm supposed to decide what happens so I worry I'm giving away something. But I'm not, I think. There's a lot of ways he can be read depending on the person reading it.

    Oh, and if you think he's scary here, just wait until we get to "That Night." (Always capitalized in Edy's head.)

  11. Wow! So that's what Michael is like in action!
    No wonder people are scared of him.

    I like what the Old Man said. To me it seems 'experiments' are not capable of the same range of emotions like humans. This makes humans - especially when they are good-hearted like Edy - mentally so much more vulnerable when dealing with or facing violence, destruction, fear, grief... But maybe I'm wrong.

    Michael seems to have 'claimed' Edy as his property. I wonder how much the fact her father was a scientist in the lab has to do with 'keeping' Edy. It must be quite an ego boost to have such power over the offspring of the man who possibly tortured him with experiments...

  12. Oh, you're so insightful, Moondaisy!

    I think that being locked up and then experimented on would have to be scaring in some way. I don't want to say too much, but that important when thinking about who Michael is now and how he is.

    And Edy is particularly vulnerable, I think, because her best trait is also the weakest one. She can't understand people who aren't good or selfless like she is.

    Nice subtext reading! I will say that yes, there is a scene that was written which I didn't add in because it was after That Night, but before Edy came to life again. He made it very clear to the other experiments that she was his and they weren't to touch her. It's sort of a disturbing cultural thing usually used to claim victims. When Michael made his claim though, they were clearly not going to argue with him.

    And oooh... your last observation. Chilling. Wait until I post the next chapter.

  13. Ooh disturbing what he must do to the bad guys. I like the thought line about how Michael's childhood would be apart of who he is today. Maybe without having been shown love he isn't really capable of that human emotion so much.

    Their relationship is so much different now, you'd never guess they had been where they were as children, and even at this point in the story.

  14. Chapter 10 will hopefully bridge some of the gap between them then and in the present. Definitely, Michael's past affects him now. He certainly missed something important growing up.

  15. It's interesting to see the transformation of Edith from child to adult in these flashbacks. Michael may not lay a hand on her in a harmful way, or even verbally abuse her, but his coldness is just as abusive. Although, it was a little bit of a shock to see Michael actually take what the Old Man said to heart, and then went to find Edith her "own" house. That was one of Michael's more human moments, in my opinion. :)

    I feel sorry for Edy, being "lowly" human in a world of expiraments, though. Especially when they first went up to the gang.

    I do have a question though, and maybe you can enlighten us? Was Michael invisible to the gang until Edith was brought before the leader? I was a little confused when the gang focused only on Edy and not Michael at the beginning.

  16. Good question. I think of it as the slight of hand magicians use to distract you so that you won't notice the real trick. He had Edy up front, and while he's not exactly invisible to them, they don't notice him because they're focused on her. He would use his powers here to "help" make them fuzzy, so they hardly notice him at all.

    And I agree, this was one of his more human moments.

  17. shocking, just shocking!

    Now that I know what Michael is capable of, I see him in a completely different light!

    And it makes me think of maybe that's why Edy treats hima certain way, or thinks of him.

    And oh, Edy. that last sentence made her life, even if it was just the past, sound so... trivial.

  18. You're right about that last line! I never thought of it that way. Edy has that way of saying something without thinking about it, and then on looking back I go, "how did I miss that?"

    And yeah, ah Michael. He is definitely dangerous.

    I'm glad you're still reading. ^__^ It's also nice to revisit this story.