7 - Hal: Present Day

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The air was chilled and damp, wind whistling as it pranced through the leaves of the tree-lined street. Sheila linked her arm through Malchus's and shivered. A snowflake lit on the tip of her nose, and then another; Sheila smiled. "I love the snow, don't you, Hal?"

Malchus stuffed his hands deeper into the pockets of Hal's jeans.

"Hal?" Sheila said. She tugged at his elbow with her own.

Malchus grunted.

"Don't you just love the snow?" She took a deep breath. "The air always seems so fresh when it snows."

Malchus grunted again. The last breaths he'd taken were more than a century ago at the height of the Industrial Revolution. Though he would hardly deem the air he breathed now fresh, it certainly was fresher than he'd remembered. He breathed deeply, senses crackling in the cloud of Sheila's scent made crisp by the cold.

"We should walk faster. It's getting late." Her pace nearly doubled.

Malchus allowed himself to be led for a few steps, and then stopped.

"Now's not the time to be difficult, Hal. If I'm late for Kelsey's class one more time I'm in for a major ass kicking."

Malchus unthreaded his arm from Sheila's. He stared into her eyes and felt teenage desire thrum in the body he wore. "I'm not going," he said.

"Not again, Hal, I won't let you."

He glared into her eyes once more, willing her to succumb to his favour.

"If you ditch again they'll suspend you."

The irony of modern education. In his time, if he'd ditched he'd be taken out back and switched. Today they "punished" the truant with what amounted to sanctioned skipping.

"Let 'em," Malchus said.

They looked at each other for a few breaths. "You coming?" he asked. He recalled the feel of her chest against his back, the warmth of her breath at his neck, and longed for the feel of her closeness again. Malchus held Hal's hand out to her.

Sheila shook her head. "I can't, Hal, you know I can't."

They looked at each other for a few more moments. "You can't either, Hal. Your father will kill you if you do, and you know it." The girl looked close to tears. "Please, Hal," she pleaded, "come with me. I'll let you feel me up behind the school at lunch." She made "lunch" sound like two syllables.

As tempting as the offer was, Malchus shook Hal's head. "I have to go, my sweet," he said. He considered compelling her to go with him, but then remembered the breakfast spent across the table from the girl's mother. If he'd enchanted her to join him he would lose the freedom he needed to complete his task.

Malchus backed slowly away, shook his head, and shrugged his shoulders. "I have to go." He turned and walked quickly from her.

Then he ran.

The brilliance of youth!

Malchus marvelled at the body in which he was clothed. The boy, Hal, had taken great care of it. It was muscular, fit, and provided Malchus with seeming interminable stamina.

He ran until he found a park. In the centre of the field, Malchus lay Hal down and rested. He closed his eyes, opened his mind's eye, and listened.

What he heard was horrific and fantastic at once: there was another nearby seeking him out.

Malchus opened Hal's eyes wide. In that moment, that split second between this world and the next, he formulated a vague sense of who the Other was.

But that was impossible.

Surely the one he'd sensed would be dead by now. No one survived close to two centuries, not even with the wonders inherent to the modern world.

And yet, that was the impression he'd gleaned.

Malchus breathed deeply and dug up the courage to try again.

When he'd sensed the Other once more, Malchus approached, gingerly. Feeling as if hunting on tenterhooks, Malchus spied.

He saw a man much older than Hal, with long, grey hair and a beard to match. His body was sinuous and lean. He stood quietly hunched, and then quickly turned to peer over his shoulder, as if expecting to find someone standing in the doorway behind him.

There was someone else there, too, nearby. He sensed the consciousness of the One-Who-Was-Not-The-Other. He also sensed his fierce loyalty to the Other.

Once more Malchus forced Hal's eyes open. Near blinded by the sunlight his pupils met, Malchus sat up, mind fraught with disbelief, for in that moment, in that split second between this world and the next, Malchus confirmed that the Other he'd sensed was Morgan Dappleford, also known as Malchus Dappleford's twin brother.

Malchus curled the corners of Hal's lips into a sneer. Morgan! He should have known.

Identical twins in an age where superstitions about doppelganger twins, where beliefs that one twin embodied the good yin, the other, the evil yang abounded, Malchus and his brother had formed a strange union. Prone to curiosity leading him to trouble, Morgan was quickly labelled the Evil Half, respectful, do-as-told Malchus, the Good Half. The labels stuck through childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood, until Malchus could no longer bear the burden being good entailed.

At the age of thirteen, Malchus was apprenticed to the local doctor, a man named Algernon. In the city of Toronto, Malchus was given the chance to forge a new life for himself, to become a healer, to always be respected and desired as Malchus Dappleford, individual, rather than paragon to Morgan Dappleford, Malchus's lesser half.

As serendipity would have it, it was the city that would, years later, lead to his demise. One night, when Malchus was in his twenties, shortly after old Algernon died and Malchus was finally out from under his thumb and able to practice the Healing Arts of his own accord, he was mugged. The marauder stared at him, eyes gleaming from the candlelight of a still-open pub near the harbour, gun pointed at Malchus's head. "Your money," he growled.

"I have none," Malchus lied. "Please. I am but a poor, simple man, trying to build a life in the harsh city."

The man smiled, lips curling back to show rotten teeth and a scurvy-infected gum line. "What? Dressed like that? Wearing those clothes? That hat? Those boots? Real leather, I bet." His eyes continued to survey Malchus's dress. "And a gold pocket watch." He made this last observation with avarice. The man laughed and cocked his pistol. "Your money. And that fancy watch."

Malchus glared at him feeling anger rather than fear. Something about his mugger, less a man than a boy, seemed familiar, but try as he might, Malchus couldn't place him.

"Now!" the man shouted.

"Go to Hell," Malchus said, calmly, deliberately.

The man pulled the trigger. Malchus went down. He could feel the man pawing through his pockets as the pain in his head worsened. Sleepily, he reached toward his head.

Malchus's hand came away from his forehead tacky. Blood, he thought, then closed his eyes and relaxed his arm at his side.

After a moment's consideration, the man continued to search Malchus's person.

Then came the voices, a call for help, then another, then the police whistle, then silence, and the veil of Malchus's pain was lifted at last.

Don't wait to read more! The Revenant: A YA Paranormal Thriller with Zombies is a finished book, now available at Amazon, Kindle, B & N, iBookstore, Kobo, and Draft2Digital. Go to http://eliseabram.com to read my blogs during my Wattpad Experiment and for other works by Elise Abram.  

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