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Author: K.A. Parkinson

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Copyright 2019 © K.A. Parkinson


October 1st...

Flames licked at Rune's back as he fled.

A strange sort of energy consumed him and he found he didn't need to stop running. Within a few minutes he was leaning against the plastic shelter at the bus stop. He breathed in deep gulps of night air and looked down at his blackened hands. Each time he blinked he could see the fire shooting out of them.

I killed the monster.

The smell of smoke and charred flesh clung to his blonde hair and tattered shorts, filling his nose with the proof.

His stomach clenched as he realized he'd not picked up the bag of supplies before he ran. At least the bus pass Miss Jamie had bought for him was in his pocket. Miss Jamie... Would she still like him after this? He looked again at his blackened hands, cringed at the smell burning in his nostrils. No. She wouldn't. No one would ever look at him the same again.

He pulled the ticket out of his pocket. At six-years-old he was the youngest fifth grader at Stoneridge Elementary. Miss Jamie had believed in him. Trusted him. She'd bought him the ticket to the fall camp for gifted children in New Jersey. She was the one who fought with the principal to let Rune skip ahead a few grades.

All that was gone. He could never go back, but he couldn't go to New Jersey anymore either. He would have to get on the bus and get off somewhere no one expected. He would be alone for real now.

A shuffle met his ears and he glanced up to see a huge homeless man pushing a shopping cart toward him. Rune stepped away, down into the gutter.

"Are you all right, boy?" The man's voice was rough, but soft.

Rune stared up into his lined face. His long brown hair was matted and dirty, pulled back in a messy ponytail. His unkempt beard, thick with grime, brushed his broad chest. He looked like maybe once he'd been buff, but years on the streets had shrunken his body. His skin sagged over high cheekbones, and sunken cheeks. Purple circles ringed his eyes.

The man leaned over and rummaged in his basket. "Here." He held out a small jar. "Put that on your side. It'll help the bleeding." He said softly.

Rune looked down to see a long cut on his left side that ran from the bottom of his ribs to his stomach, and a trail of blood staining the top of his shorts. His eyes pricked but he took a deep breath and looked back at the homeless man. He wasn't afraid of strangers. Only monsters. A gentle smile lifted the man's dirty cheeks, his soft brown eyes were kind, and Rune felt goodness from him, despite his dirty, somewhat smelly, exterior. The same way he felt around Miss Jamie.

Not a monster.

Rune started to reach for the jar but paused with his hand in the air between them.

"It's okay young one. You don't have to tell me what happened." He wiggled the jar. "Come on, it will help with the pain too."

Rune's hand shot out, grabbed the jar, and he jumped back out of reach of the man's hands. He kept shooting glances at the man as he dipped his fingers in the jar-the goo inside was cool-and rubbed it on his bloody side. It felt so good he almost cried again. The coolness spread over the cut, soothing the burning ache, and the bleeding slowed to a stop.

"You can put some on that lip, and around your eye too."

Rune narrowed his eyes at the man, but smeared some on his lip and the throbbing stopped, so he put more around his eye and he felt the swelling go down and his vision clear.

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