Chapter 16

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What I see when I've passed through the wall is a sight for sore eyes and painful to the heart. The land is barren: no grass, no trees, no flowers or shrubs; just dirt, rocks, and what looks like a trash-filled pond in the distance. The stench of garbage and sadness is prominent, and every direction I turn, I see starving, poor, and grief-stricken people. They all live in poverty, their faces sunken and unclean, the look of hopelessness unremovable from their dark eyes. I hear shouts of quarreling men coming from somewhere, and I spy a mother trying to quiet her crying baby. I don't see children running around and playing, but instead, I see them in their shacks of houses being pulled away from the windows by their careful mothers as they try to keep them safe. I see a young man carrying a bag of rotten potatoes, but he trips and falls, causing the potatoes to fall onto the ground. Before I can blink, a swarm of people tackle one another trying to reach the spoiled food. Then, they all run away with what they managed to grab, leaving the man with nothing. I hear shouts coming from a fight that has broken out. Two men are beating each other bloody and senseless for no good reason.

All around me there is nothing but pain and suffering. My entire life I have had a nice home, food whenever I wanted it, a family, friends, anything I needed was given to me. Seeing all of this at once makes me want to run back through the wall and go home. However, I swallow my fear and keep walking. This is what I've wanted to see my whole life? This...this hell?

Enough Julia. You know why you came here. Find Peter. Even though I can't see my hand, I can still touch the ground without my hand passing through. I locate him in a building not too far from here. Wanting to get away from this spot as quickly as possible, I sprint for Peter's location.

Walking through doors and walls, I hear shouting in this dingy building. "You are a failure!" A strange voice screams. "Well you're a failure as a father!" A familiar voice responds. I know the voice belongs to Peter. "All my life you've told that I am nothing, nothing but a failure and a pain in the butt for you. Well you know what? Someday it's going to catch up with you. I'm going to get out of here, and you'll die alone and the terrible man you are," Peter says triumphantly. "Son, you're about to wish you were never born," his father threatens. "Too late for that," Peter adds. I know where this conversation is about to end up, so I run through the door only to see Peter's father running towards him with his hand raised, and Peter doesn't even move.

Without thinking, I launch myself at Peter's father, knocking him off balance and causing him to fall. Coming into contact with another human threatens to make me visible, but I hold onto my transparency with everything that I have. "What on Earth-" I cut off Peter's Dad with a slap to the face and a kick in his back. Then I grab his arm and twist it around his back so hard that he's withering in pain. Maintaining my transparency, I whisper in his ear, "Go. And never come back." Then I push him to the ground once more.

Peter's father scrambles to get up, and then launches himself out the door, down the stairs, and back outside. Peter, still standing in the same spot, looks scared and confused. I let go of my transparency, causing me to be visible again. "Miss me?" I ask.

Dumbfounded, shell-shocked, absolute disbelief, and shocked are words I would have used to describe Peter's face. "Julia? How...how did you...what in God's name...how did you get here?" Peter frantically asks. "Not that I'm not glad to see you, it's just that it's dangerous!" He adds. "I can see that. And you're the one with the power of evaluation. You know why I'm here," I remind him.

Peter looks me over, evaluating me I guess, and then understanding replaces his confusion. "You risked your life coming here just because of me. Julia, I appreciate the thought, but the people here...they're not like me. If someone saw you, they'd kill you. You have to go back," he urges. "But...I wanted to see you. I wanted to tell you why I wasn't at the woods today," I say. "I wasn't there either. I can't go back. They know where I've been disappearing to every afternoon, and I'm forbidden to go back," Peter says. "Wait a minute. If you can't go back to the woods, and I can't come back here...then...," I trail off. "I can't see you anymore, Julia," Peter says, emotionless.

Hurt and confused, I say, "Peter, this isn't you. What happened to the boy who hated the Council as much as I did and went to the woods without regret because he knew he was showing some form of defiance. Where is that guy?" I ask. Peter looks conflicted, as if there's two sides to himself fighting for control. Something's wrong with him. "He's gone. You have to go now, before the Council finds out," he says again. "Since when are you afraid of them? What's wrong with you?" I demand. "Go. Now!" He yells.

Startling me with his sudden outburst of anger, I become transparent again and run away from him, away from this house, away from this side, and then away from the wall. I am an idiot, I am an idiot, I am an idiot. Why did I go there? Why am I crying? I have nothing and no one to be upset at but myself. Self pity is weakness, and I'm stronger than that. Still, why was he acting like that? Where's the Peter that kissed me and accepted me and told me that I was a wonderful person? Where is he?!

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