Crack in the Wall

My mother went headlong through the crack in the wall that was the den of a were bear. I pulled my power around me, formed a fireball to hang ready in the air and weave of air ready to let loose or harden depending on the need. My mother looked back in the darkness and frowned, “Put that gun up and put away the magic, now is not the time to play.”

Fuck her. I wasn’t playing and she wasn’t going to eve know if I had done as she asked, I did however raise my gun. But the safety was still on. I didn’t use my gun unless I absolutely had to and the safety removal was as easy as a thought away, flicking air easy enough and faster than my thumb could actually do it in a tight spot.

Michaela waited at the entrance just in case the bear came back and wasn’t in the den. Being trapped inside was worse than sneaking up on it. My mother shouldn’t be taking point. Even Michaela had learned to trust me out in the field. My magic was a far better shield then any body. And much more so than my mother’s human one. But she wanted to go first, who was I to complain. Not the bigger man – that was for sure.

In the darkness, there was a rumble. The gun in front of me went off and there was a loud roar and then it wasn’t even a second later when my mother was screaming. Large teeth sank into her skin ripping her away from me. I heard bone crunchin and the tearing of flesh as the bear shook my mother. I threw the weave of air to knock it back. Fire now would be bad, my mother was still in it’s grasp and I didn’t want to shoot her either.

The collision of air and the bear made it let go of my mother in mid shake and she flew across the den to the entrance. I heard more bones crush on impact and she shrieked in pain. The bear was running full bore at me in the tight space and was on me in a second flat. The fireball coalesced just as it’s large claws raked across my chest leaving a burning sensation behind with the pain of laceration.

There was a giant roar as the bear fell away from me trying to put the fire out. It thrashed in the dirt of the den. But the fire wouldn’t be extinquished. It grew more as it burnt through the skin. The bear shreiked in pain and slowly it shifted back to a man and the howl he let lose was more than I could take. I flicked the safety on my gun and pointed it at the now reformed man and shot him in the head. The body collapsed to the ground and I let the fire go.

Michaela was tending to my mother. She looked up at me and nodded, “Burn the body. I got your mother. Nothing you can do to help here.”

I knew that. But I stared at her and the crumbled form of my mom. “We’ll get her to the Infirmary. But you have to finish the job. I’m going to go get the sled, we should have brought it all with us. Now I have to run back.”

I nodded and sat down on the fallen rock and set the fire again on the burnt corpse of a werebear. I blocked out the howls of pain from my mother. I could have used my magic to make a sled. I could have used my magic to carry my mother but she wouldn’t have let me. My magic touching her would have been the death of her even though I was only trying to save her life.

So instead I burnt the body. The fire was hot and I hadn’t heard my mother in a while. Michaela made it back just as I let the fire out and scattered the ash into the cave with a gust of wind.

Michaela checked my mother she was still breathing and had a pulse. “It’s erratic but it’s there. Come on let’s get her home.”

And that was what we did. Now that my mother was unconscious Michaela let me do my thing. I had my mother on the board, and was carrying her with the air instead of either of us tiring ourselves out with the added weight. We just had to push. Actually Micheala asked for a harness and she ran. I followed, but I lost her in her speed.

By the time I reached were the Jeep had been Michaela had left a note pinned to a tree trunk. “She’s getting worse. There is a cabin down the road, ask for a ride.”

Tracking the Bear

We looked around the site where the last attack happened. There was still blood everywhere. They’d cleaned up the bodies and the equipment but there was just dirt covering the blood. They left it around and the animals would scavenge what it could before the scent faded away.

I could smell the coppery scent mixed in the damp dirt. Michaela’s nose was wrinkled she could smell the decaying scent as well. My mother was completely oblivious to the remaining scent. “I can’t smell anything else.” Michaela exclaimed.

“I know. But the bear was here. I can smell the forest underlying.”

Michaela laughed, “For being Minorem you sure have some unique talents.”

Leanne looked at me and frowned. “He’s not like you then?” She asked Michaela.

“He can’t keep up with me, but he can out see and smell and out hear me any day. I might almost say he was out healing me too except he gets sick. The common cold kicks his ass.” She joked.

But the truth of it was it did. She’d seen it in all it’s glory. And the stomach virus too. The bad thing about living with the Venatori – I didn’t have a great immune system. I was healthier than most Minorem who went out in the real world because I did go out in the real world. It’s one reason why I’m like the only half human hunter. They can’t be out in the real world without contracting some semi-deadly disease. But some Minorem get the full healing ability. But it’s rare.

“I can filter out the scent now. Figured out a new trick a bit back.”

Michaela looked at me with her head cocked to the side trying to put together what I’d just said. I hadn’t had that ability when we last hunted a bobcat. But I did now. She was trying to figure out what had happened between then and now. I gave my mentor a wry grin and wove the filters and set it to pull out the scent of just the were bear.

“This way.” I said as I found the trail.

My mother fell in behind Michaela. “He’s part bloodhound?”

Michaela chuckled, “Apparently. When I requested him I was surprised he was assigned me honestly. He’d excelled in city survival and barely just gotten passed the woodland survival.”

I interjected. “I barely passed because the instructor didn’t like me. He thought I was a know it all. And I was. I knew it all. I aced every exam and my group was back first.”

Michaela laughed. “I know. I spoke with Dae’lin Rivera personally about it. She reassured me that I was getting a kid who wouldn’t put me to shame. And short of our disagreements on topics I’ve not been disappointed.” She praised me with a touch of laughter in her voice. Her meaning was doubled edged and I couldn’t help but grin as I lead them through the forest.

“Nox, why didn’t he just give you a good grade then?”

I shrugged. “Because it’s objective. Did he demonstrate a keen sense of survival instinct?”

Michaela quoted the answer mocking the voice of a man who was full of himself. “No. He chooses to disobey direct orders and follow his own judgement even after having his opinion noted and the decision to go another route had been made. Resulting in the failure of his whole group.”

“So your whole group failed because of you?” Leanne asked almost as indignantly as Michaela’s voice had been mocking the instructors.

“No, they didn’t. Just me. Their time was excellent, their answers perfect, and their leadership ability paramount, all because I lead them over the rock face with limited rock climbing gear and my ability. Our team leader decided it was too dangerous and wanted to go around. And he did. He didn’t want me to use my ability on him. So we beat him back by two days by going over. We were waiting at the camp for him with no cuts, bruises or broken bones. While he has fallen down into a small ravine, busted his arm, and we had to reset it because it had healed wrong.”

“If it was reported as a failure how did Dae’lin Rivera know the truth?” Leanne asked, more of Mich than me.

I answered though. “Because Dae’lin knows me better than that. She never just looks at the grade. She looks at the reason behind it. I didn’t just pull straight A’s in school because of my good looks and knowledge. Dae’lin insured I got what I deserved. She always requested a copy of my scores, and the original copies of my work. It’s one reason Dae’lin isn’t pissed that I failed nearly every final before graduation.”

Leanne gasped, “Why did you do that? Surely they weren’t that hard.”

Michaela laughed, “Let me guess, you answered everything on the paper but didn’t write down any of the answers on the answer sheet.”

I nodded. “Pretty much.”

“Why?” Leanne protested much to my satisfaction.

“Because I didn’t want to be valedictorian and give a speech to a bunch of snot nosed brats who tortured me my whole life.” I said then glanced back at Michaela who was trying not to laugh, “No offense.”

“None taken.” She said. “So you figured out what grade you needed to drop to third?”

I nodded proud of myself. “Yeah.”

“Dae’lin had to be pissed at first seeing those grades.”

I shook my head. “Not really. She looked at how bad they were and then immediately went to my sheets. Every answer was perfect, every question answered. She asked Dorian if he knew anything about it while I was standing in the hallway watching them. Dorian peeked around her and shook his head then laughed. He told her why I’d done it. She dragged me into her office by my ear for the last time. Then she pulled the blinds shut and gave me a going away present.”

“Which was?” Michaela asked.

I held up Damnation. “This and Salvation.” I patted the knife on my hip. “She gave them names – said you will be the Salvation and Damnation of every creature out there.”

Michaela laughed. “I don’t think she really understood the words she spoke.”

“I think she did.”

I held up my hand and pointed. “I think we are getting close.”

At that my mother pushed past me. “I’ll take the lead.”

Into the Woods

Both Michaela and my mother were outside with their gear in a matter of moments. I was in the back seat waiting with my ear buds in listening to calming music. My mother drove the Jeep while sat next to her. That was the extent of my knowledge of what they did after that until Michaela tapped my knee and I looked up at her and pulled my ear buds out turning off my music. “We are almost there. We need to plan.”

“We are we going?” I asked.

Michaela told the story of the last attack and how we were going to the location. Figuring we could track the bear to its den. It had to be with in walking distance.

I asked. “I thought we were tracking a werebear? It has a den?”

Leanne gave a curt laugh. “We are going after a rogue werebear. It thinks it’s a bear.”

“So how do you know it’s not a real rabid bear?”

The tone of voice my mother used was far from nice, it wasn’t the stern lecturer, it was condescending and insulting. “We tested the human victims for venom.”

“So you what sequestered them until they showed symptoms?”

“No.” Michaela frowned.

“Let me guess, you killed the human bitten by the bear?”

My mother shook her head. “He has so much to learn.” She glanced back at me then turned her eyes back to the road. “That is the law. To kill anyone who would reveal the existence of the supernatural world to other humans. Their blood work would no longer be normal. And what was I supposed to do take a woman in her 40’s into my care and then kill her when she turned and killed my kids?”

“You didn’t give her a chance. She was part of this world now. You don’t have the right to kill an innocent. She didn’t choose to become a were bear.”

She nodded. “All the more reason to end her misery.”

“Being a were isn’t a bad life.” I spluttered out.

“And how would you know?” She asked indignant.

“My best friends foster parents are were wolves. One of my therapists is a were wolf!”

There was a low rumble from my mother’s throat at she drove. She didn’t speak the rest of the car ride and neither did I. We didn’t formulate a plan. We sat in silence. Michaela fidgetted in her seat and I knew she was being bombarded with thoughts from both of us. I pulled my shields tight around me.

Michaela turned around and frowned, “You didn’t have to do that.”

I nodded. “Yes I did.”

“What did you have to do?” my mother asked.

Michaela answered for me. “Nothing, Leanne. He just kicked my seat is all.”

My mother turned her glare at me and when she turned back I really did kick her seat. My mother rose her voice. “That’s enough!”

I rolled my eyes. “Whatever you say, Leanne.”

The car stopped and everyone was getting out. I grabbed my bag. My mother grabbed it from the other side of the Jeep. “You don’t need that. Just grab your weapon. We’ll be back before you know it.”

I was about to disagree but decided I was going to keep my mouth shut. I took Damnation and Salvation out of their places in my gear and strung the survival knife through my belt and then looped it through my jeans. I held my Beretta in my hand and we headed out without any other gear except that which we brought with us.

Not the Bigger Man

I managed breakfast. I managed not to get sick. I even managed to talk to my mother for the first real time. Without my dad sitting across from her she actually paid attention to the things I said. She kept looking at Michaela then back at me, but I didn’t say anything and I wondered what Michaela had told her.

Jesse was off taking the boys to school. Rather taking them to the bus stop down the road. They went to a normal school. Were normal teenage boys – fully human but they knew about their mother’s hunting. When they were gone I asked, “How much do the boys know about what you do?” I quickly added. “I’m not judging, I’m just curious how much wiggle room I have.”

Leanne looked at me with a frown. “They know what you are. I never hid it from him, or Jesse.”

I dropped my gaze. I didn’t want my mother to see the hurt and anger that were likely flashing through my eyes. “So they know the monster that you believe me to be.” I stood up with little effort and walked out the door. I could have slammed it. I wanted to slam the door closed behind me. I wanted to rattle the windows and maybe even know a few of those precious pictures off the wall. But I didn’t. I just closed it behind me. I was the bigger person.

I readied the gear. We were going hiking in the cool October air. I hated October. I hated everything about it. It meant colder weather was on the way and this was the month that my mother started to hate me. Now here I was up in the same house, with her and her new family and where was I? Brooding in my own mind. I just wanted this over with.

The door opened and Michaela stood in the doorway pushing my mother in my direction. “Talk to him. He’s not going to hate you any less unless you tell him.” I heard her whisper.

I watched as my mother turned around and glared at the much younger woman. But I saw the sag in her shoulders and the triumph in Michaela’s eyes as my mother turned around and headed my direction.

I busied myself with checking the gear for a third time since I’d gotten out there.

By the time my mother said anything I was done repacking my gear bag.

“Nox,” my mother said quietly. “I don’t think you are a monster.”

I looked up and met her eyes. “You could have fooled me. Those are the words that I remember coming out of your mouth. I remember the fire extinguisher you threw at my head. I remember rather clearly the pointed finger, the yelling voice telling me to go to my room. I remember you packing a small bag of things for me and then grabbing me by the elbow and dragging me out of my bedroom. I barely had time to grab Mushu before you took me to the airport. Then you drugged me, and left me with a complete stranger after yelling at him for being late. Dorian told me that you gave him the wrong time. He showed me the itinerary years later cause he’s a paper hoarder like everyone in the Venatori. And then I never saw you, or heard from you again until I was 18 years old. And then you have the audacity to get on to me about the way my fucking brain is wired and how it’s all Dorian’s fault I like men.” I rolled my eyes. “Let’s just do this so I can get out of your hair and you can go back to your happy little life without me.”

Leanne listened to my rant. She didn’t interrupt and she didn’t say anything for a long while after I closed my mouth for the final word. She sighed. “I was afraid Nox. I’m still afraid. I watched as wolves killed my family. I watched them get torn apart. I was afraid you’d do the same thing.”

“I was your fucking son. You should have loved me. You should have helped me. Instead I got stuck with a fucking man who got into my head. He beat me every fucking day for a year in my head. There was no proof, no scars no harm done but what he did to me in my head. The control, I learned it through beatings I received every fucking day. And after that I beat myself at night. My own fucking power fueled by the same fucking nightmare in my head. And still no one believes that he did it. That he was the one or is the one still hurting me. Even if they did there is no fucking proof. So why the hell should I bother.”

I didn’t bother showing her my back, I expected Jesse had told her. I heard the small gasp of horror as I had told my story. And then when I was done she moved to step into me, her around out stretched, “Oh Nox.” The pity and sorrow in her voice made me angry.

I stepped away from her. “Don’t Oh, Nox me now. I don’t need a mother now. You don’t have that right to comfort me.”

I stepped away from her and slammed the Jeep’s gate closed. “Michaela are you ready to go?”

She sighed and nodded. “Yeah, let me grab my bag from inside.”

I turned to my mother. “Get your things, we are leaving now.”

Resolution

I walked into the house and was about to turn around and walk back out because of the smell but Michaela was directly behind me and the twins were in their pj’s sitting around the island in the middle of the kitchen and were hopping of their stools, each taking my hand.

Michaela laughed, “He wants a shower and breakfast.”

“Shower first.” I added. Both of the boy’s faced fell so I added. “I’m all smelly and a little bit cold.”

Laker lead the way, pulling me by my hand. I knew my way around the house. It had only changed in decor but it was still laid out the same. I was holding back the bile that was rising in my stomach from the smell of cigarette smoke and patchouli oil. Not even the smell of bacon could make that hiden putrid smell wane. Rider walked down the hall and grabbed me a fresh white towel and handed it to me. “Shower’s right here.” Rider said as he opened the door to let me in.

Lake smiled, “You can sit in my spot for breakfast I’m done.”

“We’ll see when I’m done.” I said with a smile. “Thank you two.”

I went into the small bathroom and locked the door behind me and I bent over the toilet trying not to lose the contents of my stomach with dry heaves. I wove a sound proof barrier around the room so that my noises wouldn’t be heard. I didn’t want the boys to think I was ungrateful.

It was funny how that had changed. How I didn’t want to upset my brothers even though the sight of them had made me sick to my stomach. It wasn’t their fault. It wasn’t Jesse’s fault. It was my own. I had to man up. I had to grow up and be the bigger person. I had to forget the evil my mother did to me for the sake of her new family. Every bone in my body said I was the bigger person her. But I had to conquer my own fears. The fear of being unloved. The fear of never having been loved. I had to push it all aside.

I turned on the cold water and removed my clothes before jumping into the cold jets. I could do this. I could make the most of it. The cold water made quick work of my anxiety and I was hastily turning on the hot to temper the cold.

Before long I was clean and feeling much more like myself. Though I still knew it would be bad when I let my mind wander but for now I had a job to do, and I wasn’t going to let my past get in the way of it.

I opened the bathroom door letting the steam escape and found the smell of cigarette smoke and patchouli oil assaulting my nose. I wove a filter around me as close to the skin as possible. I adjusted it until I smelled bacon and only bacon. I’d never tried it before, but it had to be no different that any other weave I’d done. I figured it might come in handy when having to isolate a smell to track too. I made that mental note and sat down on a stool next to Rider, he was plating me eggs and bacon and a healthy pile of roasted apples. I didn’t want to tell him I couldn’t eat it. I thanked him and took a forkful of apples and stuffed them in my mouth. It wasn’t awful…

Under the Stars

It wasn’t chilly it was fucking cold as the night grew longer. But I didn’t feel the cold. My pocket of warm air and the roof made of air kept me dry and warm as I stared up in the darkness with my sleeping bag. I hadn’t done this in a few months, and was grateful as a child I’d never had an October survival class. I was one of the lucky ones.

I was in the worse place, at the worst time. Sleep was fitful. If I wasn’t dreaming about my nightmare I was dreaming about the night I sparked. It happened every year around this time. Halloween was not my favorite holiday. It was always tinged with hatred and sadness and full blown panic and anxiety attacks. Being here was only making it worse.

My mother was less than 20 yards from me. My mother had a family without me. That stung far worse than anything in the world. And she talked about me, was proud of me like she had any right to claim such feats. I wasn’t her son. She hated me. She threw me away.

The downward spiral had started the moment I’d started recognizing the area. And then the porch. But I couldn’t hate her family for my mother’s actions. Jesse was a nice guy. The boys were my brothers even if I didn’t like it. They were family. Much like Kai was my family and I hadn’t ever known.

4am came earlier than usual with my lack of sleep. I hadn’t even really had my nightmare true and simple. Sleep was fitful. But I got up and put away my things. I was in the middle of downward dog when the door opened. I looked through my legs and saw my mother sitting in the rocking chair watching me. But I didn’t let it bother me. I could feel the desire to drown in nothing welling up inside me. It was early this year. Not by much but there was only one time that my desire to die rose so high. I usually spent the nights leading up to in Sage’s basement drunk or high out of my mind just so I didn’t have to feel anything. Sage was a good host. And an even better friend. Why his parents put up with it I don’t know. I guess they understood more than most being werewolves and all. They probably smelled the anxiety that dripped off of me like toxic sludge.

I stayed in child pose at the end of my normal routine. I didn’t want to look up and see my mother watching me. But she didn’t say anything until Michaela came out. I heard and smelled her before she squatted down in front of me. “You hungry?”

“I could eat.” I mumbled.

“Do you need a shower?”

I sat up on my heels and looked at Michaela then over at my mom. “I have to go into the house don’t I?

She nodded. “And that’s where breakfast will be.”

I took a deep breathe and nodded. “Alright. But if I can’t do it I’m leaving.”

“Leanne understands.” Michaela said as she headed back to the house and sat down beside my mother. Now both women we staring at me.