Mari swallowed a yawn, hiding her mouth behind a fist. She had been reading for hours. Not that the books weren't interesting—not at all—but she hadn't done much else. Leon was skimming through the next book on her list, making sure it was important enough to spend time on, while he paced the room, twirling his triton in his hand absentmindedly.
At the knock at the door, they both paused and stared at one another. When it came again, Leon placed his weapon and book to the side and swung the door open.
An older lady, cheeks carved with wrinkles and eyes sagging with bags, stared warily up at him. A necklace of beads and shells hung near to her waist, and her large feet were half covered with sandals. "Are you...him?" Her voice could've been mistaken for a frog's croak.
Leon's demeanor shifted into his cool, relaxed state and although his back faced her, Mari could practically see his smile. "I am. And you are?"
The old lady shifted from foot to foot. "Judi. Judi Loutick."
"Well, Judi, Judi Loutick, what can a man such as myself do for you?"
"It's—it's my son. He's sick." Her croak lowered with each word.
"Despite our name, we do have our limitations." Leon leaned against the doorway with his arms crossed. His voice was still kind. "Depending on what he's got, I can get you the medicine. Other than that, there's not much I can do for you."
She shook her head, her shells and beads clacking together. "No, no. He's not that kind of sick. He's...he's got the...Hints." She whispered that last part, her eyes wide and watery.
Mari saw Leon's head bob slowly. "Give me one moment, ma'am." He closed the door and turned toward where he put his triton.
Mari folded her legs under her and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "What are you going to do?"
His triton shrunk into the pole and he grabbed a brown satchel he had carelessly thrown into a woven basket. Tossing the bag over his shoulder, he checked its contents, murmuring under his breath. When he seemed sure everything was there, he caught Mari's watching eye and gave her a reassuring smile. "I'll do what I have to." Before he opened the door he added, "I shouldn't be gone for too long." He was satisfied with her nod for an answer and left, with the old lady on his heel.
She waited until their footsteps faded before she placed the thick blue book she was holding down on the coffee table and started going through drawers. Surprisingly, they were empty. With a small frown she made her way toward Leon's room. Which was, much to her disappointment, locked. The kitchen only had dishes and a pantry full of spices, tea leaves, and fresh bread. After that, she knew she wasn't going to find anything of interest. But she didn't want to read anymore either.
On the porch, she watched the dark blue waves rhythmically crash into the shore, sometimes leaving new shells. Tossing off her shoes and socks, she headed onto the sand. No one occupied this beach, she thought. She hadn't seen a single soul cross through in the days she's lived there.
A pink shell was recently deposited near her feet. It felt cool under her fingertips as she rose it closer to her face. Usually the cream and rose colored shell would be broken from its journey to the shoreline, but it remained intact.
Orange, dying sunlight cast its last few rays over the sea by the time Mari noticed how far she had wandered from the beach house.
Clay houses were already dimming their lights, and the market was closing. She could see, over the hill of sand, merchants packing up their merchandise. Tearing her eyes away, she felt the ridges of the shell under her fingertips while she walked back the way she came.
Her stomach clenched and the hair on the back of her neck stood on end; someone was watching her. Without stopping her trek, she listened intently for footsteps. Surely enough, heavy steps along the cobblestone road echoed behind her. With further investigation, they were more of a limp.
Finally, she stopped and turned around. At first, nothing seemed out of place. The clay houses with lights snuffed out lay exactly the same distance apart, with trash cans in between them. Her gaze trailed over the square green lanterns and froze. Goosebumps trailed up her arms. A silhouette of a man stood in the light, as still as a statue, and she knew it was his eyes that stared back at her.
Normally, she would push aside her fear and demand why he was following her. But the stillness and lack of distinctive traits on the shadowed figure made her voice catch in her throat.
He moved, suddenly, at an alarming speed, running toward her. Like a fish escaping a shark, she dropped the shell and raced down the beach. His heavy breath neared her quicker than humanly possible, and within moments he had grabbed her hair and yanked her back.
Instinctively, she used the motion to twist and drive a hard fist through his jaw. The large man stumbled back, giving her time to assess her enemy; thick muscled, hairy, and nails longer than the bridge of his nose—he was no ordinary human. Sharp blue eyes seemed to glow with the few strands of light it caught. Before he had the chance to run at her again, she stomped him in the chest as hard as she could. He tumbled backwards into the sand while she snatched a loose stone from the road. It was her only weapon, and she felt more assurred of her chance of survival with it.
She hissed as his long nails dug into her ankles. Before she could rip them out, he dragged her down. She kicked out wildly at him, feeling a few teeth loosen hitting his jaw. Growling, he leapt toward her head; his temple was met with the stone she held onto for dear life, and he rolled to his side. As she reached for his neck, he dug his claws into the crook of her elbow and dragged them down to her wrist. She yelled in pain and brought the stone down on his head with her other hand.
He fell limp; she kicked him to be sure of his unconsciousness. Panting, her mind racing dizzily, she grabbed onto him and used all her strength to drag the huge man the rest of the way down the beach. She wasn't sure if she imagined it, but his nails shrunk to a normal size.
Getting him into the beach house was the hardest part; she was half surprised and half worried he didn't wake up with such a jostling. But when she was finished with him, his hands were cuffed and he was sleeping on the couch. His beard didn't look as thick as she had thought it was, and his fingernails were stubs.
When he awoke with a start, his eyes were a normal dull blue. He looked around the room wildly, then he stared in fear at Mari. "I...What...?"
"Why were you following me?" Mari held on tightly to her spear she had retrieved from her room before he awoke. When he stared at her as if she were speaking another language, she slammed the butt of it into the ground. He flinched and stared at her with wide eyes. "I don't know who you are...Officer."
She frowned. "You sure seemed to know who I was when you attacked me. Now don't make me repeat myself."
An expression of horrifying realization fell on his face, sending chills down her spine. "I've done it again. It happened...again. Ma was getting the Miracle Worker...said everything would be alright...but I...oh, no, did I hurt him...?" His worries tumbled softly off his lips.
Mari's lips pressed tight together. Leon was supposed to help this man? What happened to him? Was he alright? "What is your name?"
"Alright, Jason, what do you remember?"
"Try." She couldn't hide the sharpness in her tone. He buried his head in his hands and shook. "I don't know! The man from before said I'd be okay...said it would stop..."
"What are you talking about?" Her snap made him look at her, face pale. "What happens to you that makes you hurt people?"
"I...I black out. And then I wake up in blood." He shivered. "He said he would I would be alright. I was getting better."
"Who?" Leon? She thought.
"One of you people." He scrubbed a hand through his black hair. "Another Guard. Said I would be okay."
Before Mari could get another word out, Leon burst in breathlessly. As soon as he laid eyes on Jason, he pointed his triton at him and snarled, "step back, Lynn."
Mari was so surprised, she did as he commanded. "Leon? What's wrong with him?"
"Did he hurt you?"
"I—" That's when she remembered the long claw wound on her forearm. She stared down at the puddle she had created on the floorboards and felt dizzy. Using her spear for support, she forced herself to look away from her arm. Leon was too busy glaring at Jason to look back at her.
"I'm okay now." Jason's voice wavered and he couldn't hold Leon's gaze. He rose his cuffs for a moment before he tipped his head to Mari. "I did hurt her."
Leon turned his hard gray stare on her, but they softened when he saw her bleeding arm. "Sit."
"I'll fix it myself." Mari started, but he grabbed her by bicep and forced her into the armchair. It wasn't hard to do, she nearly fell into it herself. Within moments, she was bandaged up. She frowned, watching Leon find medical supplies she hadn't seen earlier. But soon enough, he was back to glaring at Jason.
"Your mother says you've been getting worse." Leon finally said. "Do you know of anything triggering it?"
Jason shook his shaggy head and opened his mouth, but shut it. With the Miracle Worker's gaze, he cleared his throat. "There was someone who gave me medicine. He told me it would make me feel better. That I wouldn't hurt anyone anymore."
"Someone like you can't be healed by any medicine. Who gave it to you?"
"Some Officer. Didn't give me his name. Just said I'd be alright."
"Did he have a badge number?" Mari interrupted. "I know lots of Protectors." When the big man shook his head, she asked, "what did he look like?"
"Thick brown hair, wavy I think. Weirdest green eyes. Pale." Jason seemed to shrink under her wide eyed gaze. "Do...do you know him?"
"When was this?" Leon shot Mari a glance.
"A few months ago, I think?"
"What did he give you, exactly?"
Jason dug into his coat pockets until he found three tiny vials, no bigger than a thumb. Two were empty, but the last held a golden liquid. He held them out to her and flinched when she snatched them from his palm.
Leon stared over her shoulder, "What is that?"
She held the yellow one up to the lantern light with narrowed eyes. "I haven't got a clue. But Adrian was handing these out, so it's a lead." She ignored Leon's gape and turned back to Jason. "Start from the beginning."
Rubbing his cuffed hands anxiously together, he spoke quickly about his history of black outs. "They would only happen once or twice a year." But he was worried sick that he would hurt someone close to him. A few months ago, the green eyed man, Adrian, caught him during one of his black outs. When he snapped out of it, Adrian told him he could help. Being so desperate, Jason couldn't resist. He was instructed to take the first vial on a weekend night—he couldn't remember which day—and if Adrian didn't meet him, Jason was supposed to drink one every weekend from then on. "I did just as he said when he didn't meet me. It's gotten worse, but he told me it would be that way in the beginning. Ma was getting too anxious, though, and sought out a Miracle...er...him." He glanced at Leon and shrugged. "I don't know what to do. I just don't."
Mari stared down at the vial. She hid her excitement with a straight face, but her mind was racing. Adrian was here months ago, according to Jason, but for what? Certainly not to help one poor man. And whatever he was doing got him killed.
Leon broke her thoughts. "You can stop taking whatever he gave you, for a start, and hand them over to me."
"No! It's my only chance of a cure." Jason's shout shook Mari, but the Miracle Worker only frowned.
"What you have can't be cured. It's in your blood, a genetic mutation. The only thing left for you to do is to take a vacation somewhere no one will bother you, and learn to control it."
"How..." the big man licked his lips anxiously. "How do you know so much...?"
"Experience." Was all Leon said for an explanation. "Now I suggest you start packing. Lynn?"
She jumped at her name and followed his gaze to Jason's cuffs. Tucking the vials into her pocket, she unlocked his wrists. There was hardly a moment of hesitation before Jason was streaming out the door.
Mari tossed the cuffs onto the couch and turned to Leon, the smile she had been holding back beaming on her face now. "He met Adrian."
"You're sure it wasn't some other green-eyed Officer?"
"I'm sure." Her voice was firm, but her grin widened. "I remember him taking a leave of absence around the time Jason said he met him. He told the Captain it was his sister, Terra, that was sick. She's had a long history of illnesses." She grimaced, remembering the hate in Terra's dark brown eyes every time they met.
"So we talk to his sister."
The suggestion made her jaw drop, but she snapped her mouth closed when she realized he was right. She didn't want to see Terra again, but she did have to tell her about Adrian's death. Not for the first time she felt a fool; no grudge should ever make her reluctant to share Adrian's death with his family. "Maybe she'll know what these are." She patted her pocket lightly.
"Perhaps." Leon was examining her carefully. When he caught her gaze, he shrugged. "I'll check your arm and then we can rest for the night."
"How did you know he was here? Jason, I mean." She blurted as he moved toward the kitchen.
Without skipping a step he responded, "many people saw him heading in this direction. His first instinct must've been to be alone, and well, my house isn't a secret. It's as alone as lonely can be in this city."
She hadn't thought of that. Once more she pulled the vial out and stared at it as if it would tell her what Adrian had known. But all it did was gleam and reflect light. There must've been a reason he gave this out. There must. It sounded as if she was trying to convince herself. A shiver ran across her spine.
About the Creator
I’ve been a storyteller for as long as I can remember. Every chance I could get I was either writing, drawing, or telling anyone who’d listen my stories. Throughout high school I self published three books on Amazon. Enjoy my short stories!