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Pen Your Pride

Chapter Six: Pacific, pt. 1

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6

PACIFIC

It was dusk on Wednesday evening when I left the city walls and approached my car at the lodge. My family had thought it ridiculous that I was going to drive to California. They thought it was a waste of time, but I insisted that I would need a dependable form of transportation that was human-appropriate once I arrived to face this strange kin.

  As I drove, I thought what a strange thing it was for my family to know where I was again. They knew where I was headed and that I was coming back to them. They could call my cell phone! Much had changed in the last seventy-two hours.

  I was fixating on the elders' underwhelmed reaction to Mark Winter's existence. Either they had been lying to us, and they knew all along there were others out there, or they had realized it was a plausible truth. But they certainly hadn't been surprised when I told them what I had seen. They weren't afraid of him either. They sent me to this creature apparently without concern. Perhaps he was not the threat I imagined.

  But as my tires rolled to a stop in Monterey, California, on Thursday afternoon, I thought, They sent me. What if they saw the danger this strange young man presented, and instead of risking a member of the family they cared about, they sent me because I was expendable? Maybe they were hoping to send me away forever. Maybe I was sitting at a stop light off the Pacific Coast Highway in California, about to face something they hadn't wanted anyone else to face. Maybe this was the end I had been seeking.

  Realizing how close I was to Mark Winter, alone and possibly vulnerable, my thoughts began to race, my nerves surfacing. What was I driving toward?

  As I rolled through the intersection in heavy traffic, I tried to calm myself down and focus. Though I didn't know the limitations of my ever-developing powers, I did know that the more emotional I was, the harder it was to use them. I needed to be calm for this meeting. That was easier said than done.

  I had focused on only two things in my life outside the city walls: learning to pass for a human and finding a way to destroy my kind. The latter had always meant more to me. I had traveled, searched through academic and historical documents, stalked caves and pyramids and ruins in an attempt to find art or language that spoke of the mythological creatures of that particular culture, all to answer one question: How could you kill them?

  How did the Australian Aborigines believe the Mokoi could be destroyed? Did the Romanians believe wooden stakes and holy water could kill their vampires? Could werewolves really be killed with a silver bullet through the heart? Did it only take finding the right spot on Achilles' body to kill him? Did the Mayans and Aztecs believe that dismemberment would kill anyone or anything? Did the heart have to burn, or did it have to be eaten? Could modern day tales, pulled from the pages of Twilight or Harry Potter, have truth in them? Were the witches in Salem actually witches, and were they really killed by hanging?

  This is all I wanted to know-how we could be destroyed. So why, as I weaved through the streets of Monterey into Pacific Grove and a greying fog, was I afraid for my life? I had been on a highbrow suicide mission for three years, never explicitly trying to kill myself, but testing theories with enough fervor that I had grisly scars all over my body, and covering my arms-something no other Survivor could claim. Why, then, was I afraid to die at the hands of this other? I had always sought mortality.

  I stopped at the far end of Lighthouse Avenue, Pacific Grove's main street, and realized that I wasn't afraid of dying. I was afraid for my life. There was quite a distinction.

  Realistically, this other wouldn't be able to kill me. But he could torture me, and though I never knew instances of other Survivors having felt pain, I knew I certainly could. I had felt it with every wound-self-inflicted and otherwise-that had left a scar. And he could capture me. And, if he did, I would lose my freedom, the very thing I cherished above all else. It was the threat of losing my freedom that was the final straw that made me leave my family, the reason I allowed myself to go at all. I understood, now, that this stupid boy could ruin my life. He could wave his hand casually and set me on fire, leave me hanging and bound, midair. He could create a literal hell for me, and I'd have no idea how to stop him.

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