Michele

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Northern Flock

Michele's Story

March 16, 2082

Daniel

We had the house for a little over two months. Just Adam, Calhoun, and I. How Cal bought it, I didn't know, but I didn't care to ask. I had a home. A real, honest-to-goodness home. And a friend, too.

As Adam bounced around the house, helping move things into place, his resemblance to Cal was startling. Between his black hair and dark eyes, they could've been father and son instead of uncle and nephew, but even then, his miniature Calhoun status was more of a joke than anything. Adam was built too small, too thin and scraggily. I was, too, but at least I had the sense to realize it. I sometimes wondered what, exactly, teachers taught Adam in school. Other than reading, it didn't seem like a lot, but he was funny.

"What are you staring at?"

Adam.

I zoned off again, stared right at him, forgot what I was doing.

I rubbed my eyes and shook my head. "Just tired."

Adam hit my shoulder, and I knew he didn't believe me. What he didn't know was what was on my shoulder. I tried not to cringe when he hit it, but there was something about his casual gesture that helped. Adam treated me like anyone else, because he didn't know the truth. Another aspect that set him apart from Cal.

"Why don't you go for a walk?" Cal suggested it without looking at me, but he took the time to point his finger at me. "Just don't go climbin' that damn tree again. Neither one of yah."

"I want to stay here and help." Adam folded his arms, the period of his sentence. I learned how important those were last week.

"Well, it's nice out—"

"I can go by myself."

Cal hesitated, but he knew what he'd decide and I knew what he'd decide, and eventually, he nodded.

I used to live on the streets, after all. I got by. I even learned the basics of reading. As long as I was back before nightfall, Cal wouldn't worry. I'd stick to the alleyways anyway. The darkest one was practically my home.

It didn't have a real name, not for as long as I could remember, but everyone called it the Alley of Shadows. Eventually, it was shortened to Shadow Alley. No one dared go back there. If they did, they were almost always robbed or beaten or terrified silly when they walked out. Many of the victims claimed it was a literal shadow that did it to them. Of course, the police didn't take it seriously until they investigated and came out saying the same thing. And you can't exactly arrest a shadow.

A bad blood.

Everyone knew it was one of them—someone like me—but it was impossible to get them to come out of the darkness. Even then, I had a feeling "it" was a girl. I'd sensed her once or twice while making the trek between Cal's apartment in Western Vendona and our new home in Northern Vendona. I half-expected her to try to hurt me, but she never did. She just blended in with my shadow and followed me to and from. Sometimes, I thought she was the one trying to protect me. I wanted to ask her why, but I never was the one to speak.

When I reached the edge of Shadow Alley, I was disappointed I didn't sense her today. But the stillness took me to a better place. It was the only place in all of Vendona I felt safe, like I'd never have to run into another human being, and even though I told Cal I wouldn't do it, I had a plan today. I had to climb that tree. If I didn't, I would never get better. I would never get over what brought me here. I would never be able to be a real friend to Adam or to anyone else.

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